Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tidying up

I still feel so tired after my trip and other than my luggage, everything has been as they are from Japan for the past 2 weeks. I am so lazy to unpack the stuff as it will mean that I need to arrange how I store all of my toys and honestly I don't think I still have a lot of storage space :( I am done with checking the anime books but Genie is still wrapped. A part of me is scared to find if Genie fails to arrive in Singapore in one piece.

Let's talk about money first. I initially changed 175000 JPY at a rate of 1000 JPY to $11.32 and at the last minute I decided to add 100000 JPY at a rate of $11.91. I came back with 185000 JPY which I just changed back to Singapore dollars at a rate of 1000 JPY to $11.68. Anyway my decision to use credit card to pay the hotel is correct as when I calculate, the exchange rate works out to be about 1000 JPY to $11.52 for that. However, the credit card use at Disneyland and Mandarake is at a rate of 1000 JPY to $12+. Of course I can always think that this rate is close to $11.91 and I actually make a profit as those I changed for $11.32 are worth $11.68 now. But for someone negative like me, the additional changing of 100000 JPY was a mistake.

I had been thinking of taking Japanese class after my trip but it was just in my head. I did not actually google to search for Japanese language school in Singapore. Curiously, a Japanese language school kept appearing on my Facebook newsfeed! I opened the page and saw a friend liking it. After checking with him, it is actually the language school that is set up by his ex-teacher. Oh great! Since there is a great testimonial from a friend, I am decided for it. The schedule for the beginner class is also just 'nice' to suit my schedule. It will start on 18 Oct and run for 10 weeks which means the class will end on 20 Dec. I actually will fly home on the 19th. I checked with the teacher and he is willing to give replacement class. Yay!! I am sold. I sincerely hope that my Japanese will not be as hopeless as my Mandarin so that I can travel happily to Japan every year.

I went for my acne follow up last Saturday which cost me almost $400. I am supposed to apply 5 different creams every morning and every evening now. Gosh!! Not that I am complaining as I seriously can feel and see the improvement. However, my face becomes very red now as I have to use Differin in the morning and Stieva-A in the evening. My previous regiment was only Stieva-A on alternate nights and I thought it was quite harsh for my skin.

I can confirm that the 3kg gained in Japan is really weight gain and not 3kg worth of shit. To make things worse, I have been eating like a junk since I returned: 8 packs of Kettle potato chips, 2 McD meals (the new Double Ebi Mentaiko and Cereal), KFC (the new Cheesy Crunch Burger), MOS burger (Osaka-yaki burger and rice burger). My face looks like shit right now and it basically proves that these things are really triggering my acne! Aarrgh.. October is coming and that is my aim to restart my good diet and lifestyle.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials at Gold Class

Honestly I don't know what I am going to write about as I am completely lost watching the movie. I watched the first Maze Runner without knowing the synopsis but the movie was able to carry the plot well and I roughly understood what was going on. That was not the case for the sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

The Scorch Trials continued from where the first movie ended. The Gladers who just managed to exit the maze was brought to "safety" by a military group. On their journey, they were attacked by zombie-like creatures before being brought to their safe haven. While some cherishes the safety, bed, shower, and food, Thomas felt that they were brought to a prison with the limited freedom they were given. The Gladers learnt that there were many other mazes and those who survived the mazes were gathered at this place. Periodically, a few survivors are called and they are informed that they are transported to a different city where they can finally lead a normal life. Thomas' suspicions remain as all these while, Teresa is always kept separate from the rest.

There is a new guy, Aris, who is introduced as the first guy who arrives in this place until now. Aris shows Thomas the 'secret' on what happens to the people who are being called. They are kept in the room where they are kept barely alive with tubes running through their bodies. Thomas eventually learns that this complex is actually also part of WCKD when he sees the leader of this place communicates with leader of WCKD that Thomas thought had been killed when they escaped the maze. Just because of that, Thomas decides that he has to escape this place, go to the unknown world outside, to find the a group in the mountain which is resisting WCKD. I think that is a very silly thing to do when you have limited knowledge of the world outside and the group that you will be looking for.

Thomas, his roommates, Aris, and Teresa escaped the facility. One of the guys got bitten by the zombie and got infected by the Flare. He then decided to shoot himself rather than turning into zombie as well. With the only hint of a resistance group in the mountains, they cross the desert towards the mountains. When a storm strikes, they run into another facility for shelter and meets Jorge and Brenda. The facility is raided by WCKD but everyone manages to escape and eventually meet the resistance group in the mountain, the Right Arm. During the escape, Brenda was bitten by a zombie and got infected. After meeting the Right Arm, they come across Mary Cooper,an ex-WCKD scientist, who helps to stop Brenda's infection.

If you find everything is confusing from the first movie up to this point, Mary Cooper gives you all the answers. WCKD is looking for the cure against the Flare and the cure cannot be manufactured. The cure can only be harvested from the Immunes. That explains the tubes that drain something from that maze survivors' bodies that Thomas saw before he escaped the WCKD facility earlier in the movie.

The movie reaches the climax when the Right Arm is attacked by WCKD. When Teresa was separated from everyone in the WCKD facility earlier in the movie, something was done to her and she gained her memories. She feels that WCKD has the answer to all these and thus she contacts WCKD on their whereabout. Don't ask me how on earth she contacts the WCKD. The movie ends with WCKD capturing some of the Gladers back while Thomas decides to stay with the remains of the Right Arm to continue their fight in the next movie.

Fiuh... the first movie, which I thought to be so-so, feels so much better after watching this. At least after watching the first movie, I was tempted to read the book. I did not feel that with The Scorch Trials. The plot is very weak and it is just mindless running with everything only revealed in the last part of the movie. The worse part, however, is that it feels that there are no characters in the movie. There is very little character development that they can simply replace the characters and it makes no difference to the plot at all. After all the heroism of Minho and Newt during the escape from the maze, they are reduced to useless and nothing here. So yeah, what kind of movie when there is no plot and no character? Rubbish..

I am still in holiday mood so after knowing that this movie runs for more than 2 hours, I watched this at the Gold Class. Gosh.. What a waste of money.

And joke aside, with the haze back in Singapore, some people made a meme out of this: The Haze Runner. Lol.. A stroke of genius, I would say :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sayonara, Japan!

All good time must come to an end and here I am back in hazy Singapore. This morning we took a limousine bus to the airport but the nearest limousine bus was at Metropolitan Hotel. It was not that far from our hotel but we took more than 30 minutes on foot while dragging luggage and lugging the heavy Genie. It was a comfortable ride for less than 2000 JPY. Lucky I was not crazy enough to follow my initial plan to just take a taxi to the airport.

As expected, Genie was almost not allowed to enter the cabin. After a little argument, I was glad that one of the counter staff was understanding enough when he knew that it was a fragile figurine. He said "It must be something precious to you". The immigration officer was rather unfriendly, unlike the one during my arrival. The departure lounge is pretty good although it is still not as good as Changi. I decided to have my last meal in Japan: Japanese curry in the airport.

We saw Mt Fuji from the plane after take off. Great!! Weather was great after we left Tokyo. Huhuhu T_T I decided to finish watching Harry Potter (which hung during my flight last week), slept, and then ate lunch. When it reached me, I was told that the Indonesian meal was no more. No problem as I had been wanting the Japanese meal. Well, it sucked. It was terrible. During transit in Jakarta, I had to put on a pitiful face to ensure that Genie was allowed into the cabin. Haha.. The flight to Singapore was not full and guess what: I had a broken in-flight entertainment screen! What the fish!!

Some personal reflections after this trip:
1) I am not going to take Garuda for any medium or long haul flights anymore. I should have paid $100-$200 more to fly with ANA or JAL which I believe would be much better than Garuda.

2) I realise that when I am travelling, I enjoy sightseeing and camwhoring more than shopping. Shopping always leaves me with negative feelings such as: Am I going to run out of cash? Is my luggage enough? This is so damn bloody heavy and troublesome to carry? and many more. I feel much happier looking at my photos and reminiscing the good memories while camwhoring.

3) I have yet to find a suitable travel mate :( Yes it is fun to have someone with similar otaku-related hobbies but when it comes to shopping, I prefer shopping alone. My friend does not mind helping me taking photos but because he is not into photos as much as me, his skill is not as good as I want to be. Haiz.. And because he is not that into camwhoring, it feels weird if I keep camwhoring alone and ask him to help me take photos in funny places and inappropriate occasions.

4) Japan is great and I am confident to go there by myself subsequently. I went there with zero knowledge of the language and I survived. Yay!! Haha... Honesly, I can imagine going there for a few days just to hog anime/manga related stuff. There are so many cheap second hand anime/manga related goodies which are still in very good conditions.

5) Japanese customer service is really amazing and inspiring. Although I was unable to reply anything that they said (and I am pretty sure they knew I understood no Japanese), the service staff I encountered would still keep on saying those things that they usually say to the locals. In fact, it makes me want to learn Japanese language so that I am able to reciprocate their courtesy. Compare that to myself at work daily, when I am unable to converse, I will just cut short on everything, put on black face, etc. I am inspired to improve on my customer service. Let see how long I am able to emulate such excellent customer service.

6) Okay I can't believe that I am going to write the next paragraph but I am honestly glad that I work in Singapore. WOW!! Haha.. Yes Japan is great and I don't deny that I used to dream of living and working in Japan. This trip has been an eye opener. First, Japan is so big. Heck, even Tokyo is much bigger than Singapore. Being in tiny Singapore, train journey of more than 15 minutes is considered for me. Compare that to my stay in Tokyo, from my hotel at Ikebukuro, going to any major places (eg. Akiba, Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shimbashi) takes me at least 30 minutes. In Singapore, that is comparable to travelling from Woodlands to Toa Payoh daily and I really think that is so far. Haha... Second, Japan seems to be a more stressful and workaholic place than Singapore. So yeah, I prefer having slightly better work-life balance and go holiday a few times a year in Tokyo to enjoy myself. Third, transport cost in Japan is much higher than in Singapore. I might not feel the pinch as I used JR pass for most of my transport. There were occasions that JR pass could not be used and each tap could cost anywhere between 200-400 JPY. That is expensive! In Singapore, I think from 1 end of the island to another island cost $3 at the very most. Not to mention that taxi is much more affordable in Singapore. So yeah, I can't really complain a lot about Singapore anymore.

7) I always think that those imported Japanese food or groceries that I can find in Singapore are expensive. Now I am a changed man after seeing the real prices in Japanese. The prices in Singapore, even after conversion to SGD, are actually comparable to the prices in Japan. It is a matter of mindset. I guess when travelling and holding a foreign currency, everything seems to be more affordable. Lol.

I have to unpack now. My room is like a mess not only with the things I bought from Japan personally but also with a lot of things that I bought from Japan online. Haha.. I am so tired to do anything right now..

Monday, September 14, 2015

Japan Trip Day 8: Ikebukuro, Akihabara

A few days ago, I still had the thought of going to see Tokyo Tower and Asakusa before shopping at Akihabara at the last day. I sort of changed my mind. I find Ikebukuro quite far from anywhere so I don't think I want to stay here again the next time I am back to Tokyo. Thus I asked my friend to split our ways today as I wanted to explore Ikebukuro area first before going to Akihabara since Mandarake only opened from 12pm.

I tried going to Ikebukuro north exit area and I thought the area was shady and sleazy. I know there are a lot of clubs and hotels around my hotel but this north exit area made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable. I explored Tobu shopping centre which has Uniqlo on the 9th floor. On the 8th floor, there was Hokkaido food fair from which I bought my dinner tonight.

I had lunch at the same curry shop that I had lunch on the first day and then I explored more shops in Akihabara. If I know how to read Japanese, I would definitely burst my wallet at Book-Off. Some mangas are on sale for 100 JPY each and the condition is still very excellent despite them being 2nd hand. Gosh.. There are opened Kuroko no Basuke Character Bible and Prince of Tennis 10.5, 20.5, 40.5 which I have been tempted to do. Now I know I won't buy them as I can read no shit.

I went to Laox which I promise to avoid. It is like a shop catered to tourists from China. They even have staff from China and when I was there, there was a tour group from China. Bleah.. I got irritated to get "Ni hao! Ni hao!" as I am not one of them for goodness sake!! Yeah.. I don't know what's wrong with my face. So far, the shopkeepers have been treating me as if I am also a Japanese. Mix me with tourists from China and suddenly the shopkeepers thought I am from China. But on a serious note, the shop is pretty good. They have COSPA items, they have kimonos for sale, they also have Conan plushies which I resisted not to buy because my bed is already too full of plushies. I am just being biased.

My main destination today was Mandarake and I just prepared to be thick skinned to get the Final Fantasy Chrome figures. I literally asked the person to open each box although in the end I only purchased 4: Cecil, Tifa, Magic Pot, and Terra. I asked the person if they could ship the items since I have online account and the person replied me something about not by ship but by plane. Okay I gave up! I did not want to offend him. Foreign credit card is accepted and the machine is quite cute. It displays the price in the currency of the credit card and asks customer if they want to pay using own currency or JPY.

I wanted to try Animate cafe but I was still feeling full. I went back to Kotobukiya shop but there was nothing new to buy. I went to buy some Nitro+Chiral artbook from Animate shop. I wanted to buy from the Kebab shop that I had dinner at a few days ago but I reminded myself that there are still so many nice food at Tobu Hokkaido food fair.

I really had fun shopping at the food fair. I bought a beef bento, sweet potato, stuffed squid, some bread from Vie de France bakery, and potato chips from 7-11. I overestimated my eating capability as I only managed to eat the beef bento and stuffed squid. I initially thought it was pregnant squid but it turned out to be squid stuffed with rice. I was famished!!

Finally this is my last night in Tokyo. Haiz.. I will definitely miss this place and I want to return. No wonder I have friends who never fail to come here once a year. There is just no end to eat. I am praying for a safe flight, especially for Genie. Although his box is huge, I measure the dimensions and they don't exceed the allowed cabin luggage.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Japan Trip Day 7: Tokyo Disneyland

I stand corrected about Japanese being workaholic that I thought yesterday. We went out early this morning and it was how Sunday morning should be: less people on the street and the shops which already opened this early on the other days were not open yet. So yeah, they still know how to enjoy Sunday.

Disneyland opens earlier at 8am on Sundays and we reached there about 830. There were already so many people which obviously dampened my camwhoring mood :( I entered the shop before the Disneyland entrance and I was excited to see so many Mickey & Minnie plushies with various exotic Halloween attires. I left a mental note to get 1 pair today.

Just after the entrance, we saw Mickey and Minnie at the public photo taking area. The queue was already snaking and I told my friend to go to Mickey's house first. Upon passing the World Bazaar area, I felt slightly disappointed as it really reminded me of Universal Studios Singapore. Everything looks so fake and man-made. Bleah..
The queue at Mickey's house at Toontown was already snaking and we queued for about 1.5 hours. It started to get cloudy and windy which made the queue more bearable. Sadly the photo taking opportunity was bad. In Paris, after queueing so long, at least we could take photos for few minutes with Mickey without limit whether we want to use our own camera or the official photographer. Over here, only 1 photo allowed per party. What the fuck seriously!! Not to mention that a group of 7 people entered the room at one time and it made the photo taking very awkward. So basically I only had 1 photo taken by the official photographer. At Paris, the official photographer took several photos that I could choose from. Really really big disappointment!

I wanted to take photos with Halloween decorations around the Toon Town area but it got even more crowded after we were done with Mickey. That dampened my mood even more. We decided to sit down and wait for the Halloween parade until it was announced that due to the weather condition, parade would be cancelled and only character meet and greet would take place. We had no idea what it was so we went to the shops at World Bazaar and then queued for buffet lunch at the Crystal Palace. While queuing, only then we realised what character meet & greet meant: it was still like the parade minus the songs and the dancers on the street. So the floats still went through the parade route and the characters still appeared. Due to concerns over the rain, the characters put on raincoat over their costumes. Lol.. We made the right choice of queueing now because after the parade passed by, everyone started to hunt for food and a lot of people started to queue behind us. The lunch buffet cost about 3000+ JPY which I thought very reasonable for a buffet at Disneyland. The food was pretty great too although my stomach really could not handle buffet anymore.
Raincoat over the costumes. Lol...
After lunch we went around each area and the shops were disappointing. I did not see any plush toys and only the shop at Cinderella Castle sell figurines. The Genie that I am hunting for is available. Yaaay!! After that we just spent our time waiting for the Happiness is Here parade and the afternoon Halloween parade. The Halloween parade is shorter than the Happiness is Here parade and I found that really disappointing. They make a big hoo hah about the Halloween special but the Halloween parade is that short. Bah!! 

My friend urged me to quickly buy Genie statue because the Castle area might be closed to prepare for the night show. The statue is really huge!! They did not have a plastic of suitable size and gave me a really oversized plastic (can fit like 3 of the Genie statue there) which made carrying difficult. We went to deposit that in the locker near the entrance. Wew.. thank God for the locker service.. I told my friend that I wanted to have dinner as there would not be anytime to eat after the evening parade and night show.
I don't usually take photos of food. This is an exception because the bun is shaped like Mickey's head.
According to the brochure, patrons are only allowed to start sitting down along the parade route 1 hour before the scheduled parade time. After my dinner, it was still 1.5 hours but people were already sititng down. We also sat down and we were already on the 5th row from the street. Madness!! Thank goodness for the great breeze to make the wait bearable. When I wanted to pee, I decided to walk around and took photos of the Toon Town at night.
Thanks to inconsiderate tourists who ruined my picture!
I did not even come across this at daytime
Halloween decoration in front of Goofy's house
Halloween decoration in front of Donald's house
Halloween decoration in front of Mickey's house
Halloween decoration in front of Minnie's house
The Electrical Parade Dreamlights were amazing!! However it was awkward to see the main Disney characters i.e Mickey and friends appeared on the first few floats. Usually they always appear on the last floats. That dampened the mood of the parade a little bit. I think the parade is amazing because it is really as what the name suggests: they really make full use of lights and light effects to make the whole parade grand and feels out of this world. Not that I am biased but I think the best float is Genie which keeps changing pattern on his body just like how he keeps morphing into other things/characters in the cartoon. Unfortunately, when he started to change patterns, his float already went pass where I was seated. Bleah...

Unfortunately, fireworks were cancelled because of the weather :( So yeah.. 2 trips to 2 different Disneylands and I never experienced the night fireworks. The night ended with Once Upon a Time night show which included some fireworks. The fireworks did not burst into flames in the sky. No wonder they cancelled the fireworks show earlier. Bleah..

Basically all the excitement and the anticipation turned out to be a huge disappointment at the end of the day. I was expecting something even better than Disneyland Paris but it was far off from my expectations. I prefer Disneyland Paris many many times over Tokyo Disneyland for the following reasons:
1) Tokyo Disneyland is too small and in 1 whole day, I circled the whole area at least 3 times. I did not even circle the whole Disneyland Paris once when I went there.

2) Because of the smaller area, human density is also much higher in Tokyo Disneyland. Bleah.. I can't even take a photo with the castle because other tourists are everywhere. Before you judge me crazy for wanting no other tourists in my photos when I am in Disneyland, let me tell you that I manage to have a lot of photos with no other tourists in Disneyland Paris!

3) In Paris, parents brought their children to experience Disneyland while in Tokyo, parents are the ones wanting to enjoy Disneyland. In Paris, it was so difficult to get empty seats for meals while in Tokyo, even during lunch or dinner hours, there were still empty seats at the restaurant. Yep, for the people in Tokyo, waiting for parade is more important than eating. In Paris, I still managed to get the most front seat half an hour before the parade. In Tokyo, I never even got the first row despite waiting >1 hour before the scheduled parades. Crazy!!

4) In the country where cosplay originates, it is not a surprise that the tourists here dress up as Disney characters. Earlier in the day, I thought this was an interesting experience. At the end of the day, I regretted coming during the time when Disneyland allows the patron to cosplay. These cosplayers took photos everywhere. I saw some pictures during other periods and the courtyard in front of the Cinderella Castle was relatively empty. When I went there, the courtyard was literally full of cosplayers the whole day!!

5) Despite the eagerness of Japanese to take pictures, ironically the photo taking opportunities with Disney casts are terrible. In Paris, the photo taking corners are "private" enough to ensure that the photos are taken against an empty background. There is no such dedicated corners in Tokyo and you basically can see other tourists crowding behind you. Terrible.. However, I have to praise the Japanese for their courtesy: they even form a queue to take pictures with the objects around.

6) The shops in Disneyland Paris are generally bigger and there are more varieties of items on sale. Plushies are rare to find in Tokyo while in Paris, they can be found in each shop. In fact, different shops may carry different plushies.

Sad :( But seriously I need to return to Disneyland during Christmas and stay over at the hotel at least once my life time! For now, I need to think how to ensure that Genie flies to Singapore safely.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Japan Trip Day 6: Osaka Castle, Dotonbori

Earthquake is a common occurrence in Japan but I experienced none since I arrived here until this morning when one struck and woke me up even before our alarm rang. The shake was quite strong and the sensation is similar to lying on a spring bed mattress when someone is bouncing on the bed. Come to think of it, I think humans have an innate survival instinct. Just a few seconds before the quake, both my friend and I just naturally awaken, we asked each other if the alarm had set off, and then everything shook.

It is going to be another tiring day with the trip to Osaka estimated to be 3 hours. I bought katsu sandwich (again!) and a colourful bento set which I did not like its smell (as I dislike cooked salmon) although I liked its taste better than the beef tongue that I had on the journey to Kyoto. One observation I saw on the journey is Japan is really more workaholic than Singapore as Saturday morning is equally busy as the weekdays with both working adults and students are already out and about. I felt quite poor thing for the boy sitting next to me in the train: carrying big sports bag (looks like going to school for his CCA) and falling asleep after reading less than 1 page of his English text book. That is coming from someone who is used to reading notes on the bus journey and falling asleep even until last year when I part-time studied on top of full-time work. Lol.

At Osaka, my friend's friend became our guide. Yay! We went to a post office first to ship my anime books, except for the super heavy Art of Gundam book. The total weight was about 5kg and it cost 6000 JPY to ship by EMS. It looks like my anime books will be in Singapore even before me. Lol..

Then we went to Osaka Castle. With the typhoon completely dissipated, the heat reminded me of the summer in Europe when I went there in 2013. I think there were some competitions going on as there were groups of students performing Japanese traditional dance and cheering. There should be a term for such thing but I don't know. I find it exciting to watch as we don't have such school activity in Indonesia or in Singapore.
One of the canals surrounding the castle
The back of Osaka Castle where we came from
Osaka Castle is definitely a place I have to visit again. Due to time constraint, we only went to the main castle although the are still other interesting things around the castle complex. I also felt awkward my friend's friend around and I did not camwhore as much as I wanted to :( There is a glass lift at the main face of the castle and it really ruins the facade. We went up to the museum which is smaller than I expected. But the highlight for me is the 300 JPY photo taking opportunity with samurai helmet and vest. Me being a peasant chose the grandest looking helmet with multiple horns (can't find any picture of it online). I don't know what the helmet represents. The helmet is so heavy and I have no idea how people would wear such things in the past. Sadly the picture taken by my friend's friend was bad with my foot being cut. Darn!! I did not know there was such photo taking opportunity and my choice of shirt did not complement the helmet and vest too. Bleah.. Next time.. Anyway I was also handed a real samurai to pose with but I was only allowed to unsheath it halfway. So imagine how boring the poses that I could make with an impractically heavy helmet la.

We had tempura for lunch and I made the right choice not to be so greedy and get the meal with 4 pieces of prawn. I ordered the meal with 2 prawns and the rest were vegetable tempura. Hohoho.. We then went to Dotonbori which is amazing and I really find those giant shop decorations impressive. I already kept my camera and it was too crowded for me to take photos. We passed by the famous Glico board but again because there were too many people, I did not take a photo. On our way back, we passed it again from the other side where it was less crowded but it was getting dark so I did not think I would get a nice picture anyway.

We went to Mandarake which unfortunately did not have Final Fantasy Chrome figures that I was looking for. Their used books sections were also appetising but I kept reminding myself that I still have Disneyland and Mandarake Akiba to shop for the next 2 days.

We had takoyaki dinner before returning to Tokyo. I saw people carrying Tokyo Disneyland plastic bags which made me really excited for tomorrow. Hehe.. And although I thought Japanese are workaholic this morning, it is not as bad as expected as in the evening, there are less people and the train frequency decreases too. These are signs of decreasing human activity as the day comes into a close.

Aaah.. Osaka is definitely a place that I will return and I will definitely have to stay for a few days to experience it fully. I definitely want to return to Dotonbori to see those shop displays in their full neon lighting and I want to explore Osaka Castle surrounding. Osaka feels more touristy than Tokyo as I saw tourists everywhere. That is not exactly a good thing as I hate coming across those noisy inconsiderate tourists from China.

Oh I almost forgot that at Osaka Castle, I got a souvenir coin with Mickey against Osaka Castle background for 500 JPY. It is a similar coin as those available in Europe tourists attractions. Minnie coins, surprisingly, already out of stock. What makes it even more special is that next to it, there is a machine for you to engrave something at the coin for 30 JPY. I engraved my name on the coin. Hehe.. The date is also automatically engraved. Based on what you want to engrave, the machine will adjust the spacing between the letters accordingly. How cool and genius!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Japan Trip Day 5: Hakone, Gotemba

Today is another disappointing day as I failed to see Mt Fuji. The weather forecast of sunny with 20% chance of being cloudy was accurate. Despite it being much better than the weather for the past few days, it was not good enough to see Mt Fuji. Sad :(

About the journey itself, my friend gave me 2 options: by Shinkansen or by JR which are not exactly 2 different options since from Ikebukuro, the total journey time with both options would be similar. Both options also end up at Odawara where we have to change to Hakone Tozan Railway. The platform for Hakone Tozan Railway was amazing: it was really huge and open. I could feel the cooling mountain breeze and I thought I was underdressed today. Lol.. I was wearing berms as the forecast for today was sunny with 20% chance of being cloudy and hence I thought it would be rather warm.

We went 3 stations away and then we changed to a bus. I could not remember the station where we stopped. I really enjoyed the journey. The sound of the train and the mountain breeze were really relaxing and I fell asleep. I would love to walk about and take pictures at where we were supposed to change for the bus but the bus arrived in less than 5 minutes after we reached there so I did not have the chance. Bleah..

We took the bus all the way up to Hakone-machi and the journey was not exactly very nice. The roads in Japan are typically narrow and just nice for 1 vehicle per lane. Coupled that with the winding road, I got somewhat giddy with the journey and I don't normally get any motion sickness. The sights along the way was not as good as expected. I always thought Hakone is a popular tourist attraction and I was expecting great sights along the way. So where were those beautiful pictures of Hakone sia??

Surprisingly, it was less cold and breezy at Hakone-machi than at the train station at Odawara earlier. Mt Fuji was nowhere to be seen and after a few pictures around Lake Ashi, I started to feel bored and disappointed. While waiting for the sightseeing cruise, I finally managed to figure out what wrong with my camera setting. I fixed one problem and I found another problem with the battery. Sigh.. The screen showed battery was full but after taking 1 picture, the battery would just drop. But when I turned off and on the camera again, the battery status was full again. Rinse and repeat. Grraaaah!! What did my sister do to the camera sia!!!
So cloudy that Mt Fuji was nowhere to be seen
Our destination was to Togendai and the cruise made a brief stop at Moto-Hakone. Mt Fuji was really nowhere to be seen. Huhuhu... I regret I did not disembark at Moto-Hakone. I thought Hakone Shrine (I am sure you have seen the famous torii facing the lake which I always thought as facing the sea) is not accessible on foot! Bleah.. I would love to take a picture at the torii. There was nothing special at Togendai. I initially wanted to take the cable car but it was closed due to some volcanic activity in the area. Sad.. At Togendai, we waited for about 40 minutes until the next bus which will bring us to Gotemba JR station.
That famous torii by the lake...
Even trees are interesting when I had to kill the time when waiting for the bus
There is a free shuttle bus to Gotemba Premium Outlets every half an hour. Gotemba Premium Outlets is the where the pictures of a street lined up with shops and Mt Fuji stands tall at the background are taken. Weather was too cloudy to see any shadow of Mt Fuji. Haiz.. If you like branded goods, you will enjoy shopping here. I am not a fan so I was not too excited.
Gotemba Premium Outlets
We decided to return to Tokyo from JR Gotemba. We reached the station when the train just departed. Gotemba is like a village far in a mountain and the train frequency is like once every 45 minutes. Great! We had to stone for 45 minutes at the station. Call me crazy but I ended up camwhoring at an empty train station to kill time. Haha... I think we were somewhere that was not meant for tourists as there was no English display on the train but there was English announcement. The train was stuffy (where is the mountain breeze when I needed them?!) and I saw scenes of villages/small towns in mountains. It was pretty but not as pretty as the lady who sat opposite me. Haha.. When she alighted, her umbrella fell towards my knees and she apologised. Kyaaa... I am so sorry I could not reply you that it was okay.

We took Shinkansen from Odawara back to Tokyo and we waited for close half an hour for the Shinkansen. In Shinagawa and in Kyoto, all trains stopped to pick up passengers. That is not the case for Odawara as some trains just blazed past the stations and there only I appreciate how fast and how ear piercing the noise when a bullet train passes by. Ziiing...

We ate ramen on our journey back to hotel and I really think the Japanese ramen standard in Singapore is pretty good that I find the ramen here normal. I bought more potato chips and drinks from 7-11. I really want to find a special or exotic Japanese tea drinks but so far I really never find one. In Singapore, I enjoy Ayataka green tea which has 0 sugar and I hate those sweetened tea. In Japan, most of the bottle tea has no sugar that makes me crave for a sweetened tea which I can't seem to find.

Aaah.. time really flies.. It is already Saturday tomorrow :(

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Japan Trip Day 4: Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Akihabara

Sigh I should be meeting Mickey and friends today if not because of the typhoon. We switched our itinerary to sightsee the 3 famous locations: Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku. Shibuya was our first stop as it was the furthest from Ikebukuro. We reached there too early and most of the shops were not opened yet. I saw Hachiko, wanted to take photo, but decided to skip it because there were a lot of other (inconsiderate) tourists and it started to pour again. We crossed the famous Shibuya crossing and walked mindlessly. We saw a Uniqlo store which would open only at 11am.

We decided to have our lunch first at a Japanese-German restaurant. I was interested in the fried stuff while my friend was interested in the beer. Lol.. At 1000 JPY, my meal had 3 pieces of battered fried oysters!! Oyster is considered an expensive food from where I come from so that meal was definitely a steal.

The rain got heavier again but we still made our way to Uniqlo. I could not find the jacket on sale which I saw at Akiba but I saw bright coloured bermudas for 790 JPY each!! The original price was 2190 JPY which was then cut down to 1290 JPY and finally to the current price. I bought 2: bright green and blue hahaha... It is my first time buying clothes with S size. I must have slimmed down a lot. Lol.. Honestly, M was too big and even belt was not helpful but S was a bit too tight. I decided to buy just because of the colours since currently the bottoms I own are usually of the usual boring black, blue, or khaki.

Harajuku is just one stop away and I am disappointed to find that it is only 1 street/alley with shops lined on both sides. I think I am also too old to appreciate the items that the shops are selling. And since it is a Thursday, I did not see people dressing in the fashion style that makes Harajuku famous. There are plenty of dessert shops but I was still too full after lunch that I was not tempted. Rain also made the trip negative as the street is pretty narrow. With everyone carrying 55-60cm long umbrella, we basically tried to avoid clashing one another umbrellas and with the little space, clashing was unavoidable.

I enjoyed Shinjuku the least. I don't know if it is because we took the wrong exit but all I could see were office buildings. We only went to a nearby Uniqlo where I could not find the sale jacket and another store which looked very similar to Yodobashi at Akiba.

Next we returned to Akiba because we really wanted to find Mandarake today. We realised that despite spending a day there on our first day, there were still many shops that we had not visited. In a shop selling second hand goods called Mulan, I saw a giant box of Prince of Tennis. I never knew that item before so I did not know whether it was music CD collection or anime collection. The shop was rather cramped especially with me and my backpack and the item was placed so high. I did not dare to tip toe and take it down. I could have recorded the barcode numbers and checked it out but I decided not to tempt myself yet since I had yet to go to Mandarake.

Mandarake at Akihabara is amazing! There are still so many items which sadly are not listed in their website so that I can buy them online. I saw Li Syaoran figure from Kotobukiya for only 5500 JPY. It is one of my wishlist items (together with Sakura, Ciel, and Sebastian) because I have no space in my room. What blew my mind, however, are Final Fantasy Chrome figures!! I saw Cecil for 30000 JPY, Terra for 18000 JPY, Tifa 12000 JPY and 9000 JPY, and Magic Pot 18000 JPY. They also have Zidane, Squall, Rinoa, Aerith, and a few others. The shopkeepers spoke very limited English that I was shy to ask them to take a look. I also wanted to ask if they accept credit card payment or if they can send the items overseas. Sigh.. I will be going to Osaka this Saturday and my friend has a friend who can speak Japanese. Perhaps I can find these items at Mandarake Osaka. I shall be patient. They even have the display case for 20000 JPY also but I know I will not able to buy that if I buy Genie statue from Disneyland.

Today I went to take a look at Gundam Cafe in Akiba. I was so excited to hear about Gundam Cafe before coming to Japan and intended on eating there. But after coming here and looking at the things, I will give it a pass. Haha.. None of the merchandises caught my interest and I definitely won't buy the cookie although it has gundam stuff as they will end up in my stomach and in the toilet eventually. The food served in the cafe also does not look gundam-y enough for me.

Another half a day passed by very quickly in Akiba. I thought there still would be time to see Tokyo Tower or go to Ueno tonight but by the time I was done with Akiba, it was already 8pm. Who says boys don't shop eh?? Haha... We found a Kebab shop and we ate that for dinner. We were craving for meat!! Haha..

Time to rest early today for the trip to Hakone tomorrow. I can't wait to have those calendar pictures with Mt Fuji in the background. Hehe...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Japan Trip Day 3: Odaiba, The Art of Gundam exhibition

You can judge me as crazy because I don't think noone in the right mind will want to wake up at 530am in the morning during their holiday in a foreign land just to do laundry. That was what I did this morning. Lol.. The washing machine had no English instructions and I just randomly pressed the buttons. I had a little hiccup with the dryer which did not seem to work initially. I was quite pissed with the hotel as the staff told me that they could not do anything to the machine and asked me to go nearby hotel to use their dryer. What the heck?? There is a typhoon going on here and you expect me to carry a bundle of wet laundry across the road? Jeez.. I tried a bit of force and bang the machine and thank goodness, it worked. My friend told me that I could borrow iron and ironing board as mentioned in the website. I called the front counter who had no idea what I was talking about. I came down and I realised my England was too powerful. I should say "ai-Ren" instead of "ai-en". I was wrong not to emphasize the R.

We had breakfast at our room and my friend helped to buy some food from 711. The food was amazing and it made me realise that I was more into those 711 food than the restaurant food. Lol.. I guess there are a lot of Japanese food in Singapore (ramen, sushi, tempura, curry) which are pretty authentic already that I don't find the ones in Japan that special anymore. But those prepacked food at konbinis are amazing as they feel fresh and new. They don't feel or taste prepacked at all.

It was still raining when we left so I decided to get a Japanese umbrella although I had my blue umbrella. After the trip to Kyoto yesterday, I realised my blue umbrella is too small and it looks ugly in pictures. Those are the main reasons, not the rain. Lol.

We went to Odaiba and I really could not keep track how many different train systems Japan has. The train from Shimbashi to Odaiba is definitely not a JR. The Rainbow Bridge is impressive and it really reminds me of the San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The view of along the way is also amazing. The rain sort of stopped as we walked from to DiverCity. I wanted to take pictures but decided to take on our way back since I was way to excited to see the life size Gundam.

Taking photo with the Gundam turned out to be a bad experience as it just confirmed that something really fucked up with my camera setting. All the images were washed out. I knew that my camera should perform excellently under well lit conditions and it never produced these rubbish washed out images. Bleah.. It was not raining but was very windy. I liked this kind of weather. Furthermore, there were very few tourists so I was able to take photos with Gundam without strangers at the back.
We then went up to Gundam Front Tokyo on the top floor. I would say it was too dark to be able to take good pictures with 1:1 Strike Freedom Bust or any other props available. Dome-G seems amazing on the paper but I think nothing special when watching the show inside. Staring at the ceiling while watching the short video only made my neck tired. My favourite is the Character Photo Spot which allows to me to take pictures next to a digital projection of my favourite Gundam characters. There were not so many people so I was thick skinned enough to hog 1 spot. Sadly, the photo taking experience was frustrating. When captured in the camera, sometimes the digital projection appeared as black screen, uneven screen tones, blinking images, etc. To spare my friend from the agony of taking those photos, I had to settle with only 5 Gundam Wing pilots and Relena only :(
Sadly Kira is only a piece of cardboard :(
Character Photo Spot
Never ever say "I am not going to buy anything" again! I said that yesterday and I ended up shopping at Kyoto. Today it happened again. Ouch.. I was pretty confident that I would return empty handed as there is no new Gundam models that I am aiming for. Well, I did not get Gundam models but I ended up with several artbooks about Gundam Front Tokyo and a 400-page artbook which was released for 30th Anniversary of Gundam. FYI, this year is Gundam's 35th Anniversary. Yep, I am late for 5 years. One great thing about the shop is that they have sample/display for each book to browse through. Sadly, the artbook that I bought was placed in a glass case haha... I asked the shopkeeper if the artbook is full of coloured pictures. He said yes although I was doubtful if he understood my question but I decided to take the risk. The book is very heavy and I estimate the weight to be at least 5kg.

It was raining heavily when we were done so we decided to eat lunch here while waiting for the storm to pass. The rain stopped temporarily to allow us to walk back to the train station without opening umbrella. But with me carrying the damn bloody book, my wish of taking photos on the way back simply evaporated. Sadly, with only a little bit more to reach the station, the storm came back. It was very quick and by the time I opened my umbrella, I was already drenched. Bleah.. My mood began to go downhill with my aching arms and drenched shoes.

The journey to the Art of Gundam Exhibition at Roppongi was really frustrating. Finding coin locker was surprisingly so difficult when we wanted it the most. When we found one, only 100 yen coins are accepted and we happened to run out of coins as well! What a luck! Finding the place was also a nightmare because we went to a wrong art center at the start and it started to rain heavily midway again.

I did not really enjoy the exhibition as it is mostly devoted to the original Mobile Suit Gundam instead of all the various Gundam series. Not of a fan of the art style from decades ago but I take my hat off to the creators. I know cartoon/animation was done in the past and yet I still find it amazing to see how many sets of drawings just to create one explosion scene with simply lines and shadings to show the burst of lights etc. However, I think the opening special theatre is genius as it allows us to experience what it feels to be on the deck of the main battleship while doing atmospheric descent, including enemy attack and RX-78 being launched to protect the ship. I definitely enjoyed it better than the Dome-G in the morning.
The only photo I took at the Exhibition
Since the special edition Wing Gundam model sold during this exhibition was already sold out, I had nothing to buy. I was wrong... again... My friend showed me a folder with Gundam Wing pictures. Obviously I bought it. I also bought some postcards. I actually bought 2 sets for those with Gundam Wing pictures.

I decided that I had enough for the day and the weather was also not getting any better. My friend still went to Akiba so I asked for his help to get me a memory card reader to transfer my photos. Meanwhile I decided to try the food at a cafe near the hotel. The green tea latte was rubbish as there was too much milk that I could not taste the green tea at all. The chicken avocado sandwich was pretty good. On my way back, I decided to buy more food from 7-11: spaghetti, wasabi-flavoured tortilla chips, and avocado cheese potato chips.

Back at the hotel, I realised that the typhoon was really bad and some areas even had flooding. No wonder I received whatsapp messages asking if I was affected by the flood. Initially I was like "huh? what is going on?". Seeing how bad the weather today is, we made the correct decision to delay our Hakone and Disneyland trips. I can't imagine how suck it will be if it is raining like this at Disneyland especially. According the forecast, today was the peak of the typhoon and the weather should improve in the next few days. We shall see...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Japan Trip Day 2: Kyoto

I woke up at 530 this morning. Not because I did not sleep soundly but because we would be travelling to Kyoto today. The journey would take about 2 hours plus with the shinkansen. In fact, I was surprised that I slept quite well considering it was my first night in foreign land. I started to dislike the location of my hotel as it took me about 15 minutes to reach Ikebukuro JR station and another 30 minutes to reach Shinagawa to change to shinkansen. The journey from Ikebukuro to Shinagawa also passed by busy stations like Shinjuku and Shibuya. It was not as bad as those sardine packed trains, which my friend claimed would only happen in the subway/metro and not on JR, and it was still not body-to-body packed. So yeah, the peak hour MRT in Singapore is more sardine packed.

I learnt that with JR Rail Pass, we could only take Hikari or Kodama shinkansen but not the Nozomi or Mizuho. We bought breakfast at the station as eating is allowed in the shinkansen. Yay!! I bought a tonkotsu sandwich and a gyudon bento. It was not being greedy but it was to prepare myself for the 2-3 hour hike to reach the top of Fushimi Inari shrine which was the plan for the day. The tonkotsu sandwich was amazingly yummy. I did not enjoy the gyudon as it was actually beef tongue. Gosh!!

The shinkansen itself is impressive. Not only it is timely, it is clean (even the toilet), and it really feels 'atas'. It even feels more atas than the first class train that I took in Paris. It is basically more comfortable than taking a flight. Haha.. One thing interesting about the toilet, there is a male toilet which is only a urinal. There is a door which is not lockable and there is a window for you to see if anyone is peeing inside. No big deal except that female can also pass by the corridor and pass by the toilet. Hahaha..

The journey to Kyoto took close to 2.5 hours. There were great sceneries along the way but I did not take photos because I was not sitting at the window and I thought the train was too fast and the background would be blurry. Weather forecast was accurate and it was raining along the way. I prayed that it did not rain in Kyoto but my prayer was unheard.
Yep, that famous shrine with lots of red gates
Fox which is believed to be Inari (God of Rice)'s messenger
The rain definitely dampened my mood. It is so troublesome to carry umbrella and camera at the same time. I was also irritated with the crowd as I hate to take pictures with a lot of strangers in the background. I was expecting that so I intended on walking further up the Fushimi Inari hoping that it would be quieter. Red gates are everywhere along the way so people will not know where I take my photos. Things were not getting better as the rain was getting heavier. Something was also wrong with camera. I knew the settings were messed up as it did not allow me to focus but I did not know how to fix. My photos were terrible under umbrella and my friend's phototaking skill is below average. Bleah!! I was hoping that with him bringing a DSLR, his phototaking skill would be pretty good. I was wrong: cut off legs/shoes, slanted pictures, cut off gates/buildings, slow and hence missed windows of opportunities when there were no other tourists in the pictures. It was like going with my sister all over again :( After about half an hour, I decided to give up and detour to return. I was not going to spend 2-3 hours hiking to the top under the shower. Halfway down, the rain stopped. Thank God and we decided to climb all the way up and so we did.

My friend promised me a great view from the top but he was wrong. Haiz.. The great view was at the middle of the trail. At the top was only a shrine. I could not take a great photo because of inconsiderate tourists with their butts in my photos. Damn! Anyway, mission to complete Fushimi Inari is completed so I don't think I will return here anymore haha..
The view at the mid-point of the whole journey. See how cloudy it was :(
Yeah!! I completed everything.
Back down at the bottom, I decided to buy a fox plushie as a memento. Hehe.. There were some enticing food stalls (takoyaki, karaage, etc) but after takoyaki burnt my throat, I decided to stop. We were initially planning for a trip to another shrine: Kiyomizu-dera but I told my friend I was not interested since it started to rain again.

I could sense that my friend was not too happy that our journey in Kyoto was that short so we went to the shopping mall just across the Kyoto station. I thought it would be a short visit and I would not buy anything and I was wrong. On the first level, there were so many attractive restaurant. On the second level, my friend was stuck at liquor shop while I was looking at shoes. I realised my $99 Adidas shoes which was on sale was way too expensive. The branded shoes on sale at this mall was like 5000 JPY only nia.. If I were a fan of branded shoes, I would definitely buy a pair. On the top floor, there was something unexpected: anime shops which obviously I could not resist. I bought 3 Free! mooks which are Kyoani exclusive and I could not find online and I bought Haikyuu! and Kuroko no Basuke anime books. I will definitely buy them in Kinokuniya Singapore anyways.

We went back down for dinner. Initially we wanted to eat the mouth-watering okonomiyaki but decided to skip if we had to cook ourselves. Haha... Luckily my friend was not too picky about food so we just went to a pasta shop. We did not exactly want a pasta but we chose that shop because it had English menu. Lol. The serving was huge and the waitress was very helpful despite limited English. I was full but I forced myself for a Matcha parfait which was normal only.

That marks the end of a day at Kyoto. I wanted to wash my clothes now but darn, someone just started to wash. If I waited for him to finish, I would finish washing and drying at 2am. Heck.. I rather wake up early tomorrow to wash!

Due to the bad weather today, we had to change our plan. Initially we plan for a trip to Hakone to see Mount Fuji tomorrow and then to Disneyland on Thursday. In the news we saw that there was a typhoon nearby and no wonder the weather was this terrible. Weather forecast shows that weather will improve from Friday onwards so we switch Hakone to Friday and Disneyland to Sunday. I want to avoid a weekend trip to Disneyland but I think it cannot be helped. Next Monday is not possible since I need to know if I can get Genie statue from Disneyland to determine my shopping at Akiba. Thus Disneyland cannot be one day before my flight back. We are going to Odaiba to see Gundam tomorrow and then sightseeing in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, etc on Thursday. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Japan Trip Day 1: Akihabara

First time in Japan! Wow!! Finally :) Before writing about my Japan experience, I will write about my flight experience last night. I regretted choosing Garuda Indonesia. The in-flight entertainment for Singapore-Jakarta was terrible. The screen was a press screen rather than a touch screen for its unresponsiveness and the video and audio options were terrible that it was as good as having no in-flight entertainment. Food was also sub-standard. I was shocked the plane was parked at the parking area instead of at the terminal. Luckily I had 2+ hours before the next flight or I would be very worried missing my flight to Tokyo. It was my first time transiting and what happened at the transfer desk was only for me to know the gate for my next flight would be.

The Jakarta-Tokyo flight was slightly better: it was really a touch screen and there were more choices for the in-flight entertainment. I was tired to I decided to try to sleep. I could not because the stewardess kept brushing against me when passing through the aisle! Jeez.. I did not know how many times that happened. Basically I did not have a peaceful sleep and once woken up, I decided to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. With 1 hour left to the movie, the video hung. Bleah... Again, breakfast was unmemorable.

Weather was great at Haneda and my first impression was better than Schipol airport. Haha.. I have to say that Changi is still better. The arrival journey at Haneda was very clean and efficient: a long hallway of travelators with toilets and drinking stations at the right side at regular interval. It is similar to Changi but it feels rather cramped without the departure gates on both sides. Immigration officer was friendly and helpful despite me missing out certain parts of the disembarkation card thanks to my sleepiness. The lady at JR pass exchange office spoke quite a good English and it made me feel positive about the next few days in Japan.

My friend and I took train to our hotel at Ikebukuro. I initially thought the train station was manageable and definitely cleaner than Paris'. I changed my mind after we reached Ikebukuro: there are so many lines (not only JR but also metro etc), so many exit gates (north, south, east, west, central), and so many exits. We were looking for C6 exit at the West side. I did not know how long it took us just to locate the West side and there were more than 20 C-exits. The advertisement of the hotel at JAPANiCAN is not truthful as it took us 10-15 minutes from the exit to walk to the hotel instead of 4-5 minutes.

As check-in time is only at 3pm, we went to Akihabara first. We ate curry for lunch and I was impressed that we ordered through a machine and pay using our Suica cards. Hmm.. if this is the case for most places, it seems that I will be able to survive even with zero knowledge of Japanese language. Lol. We dropped by to a Uniqlo and as autumn/winter is coming, summer clothes were on sale. Yay! I was eyeing on a JPY 1990 coat but only XL-size were available.Well, I still have 1 more week in Japan and many more Uniqlo stores to visit so I will keep an eye on that.

After Uniqlo, our otaku shopping began with Yodobashi before going to the various small stores in the area. Gundam models are damn cheap here and they feel like kids' toys instead of premium toys outside Japan. Another contrasting trend I notice is on second hand prize figurines. Nowadays, we can buy new prize figurines (instead of winning them through UFO catcher or ichiban kuji lottery) for about JPY 1600-1800 each. Who on earth will buy second hand prize figurines at JPY 8000 and above??? I can't even my unwanted prize figurines for $20 in Singapore leh!! Or is this a tourist trap tactic at Akiba??

I was so excited to find Kotobukiya and Animate stores. Kotobukiya store still has old Full Metal Alchemist Sculpture Arts statue!! Wow... Although price-wise, I can find a cheaper one on eBay haha.. There are some Free! books that I want but I can't remember if I already have them so I better check first. I tried not to buy anything yet since it is only the first day and I am sure to return to Akiba but I could not resist to buy a set of Haikyuu! folders that I had been trying to find as well as Break Time figures for Kise and Kasamatsu.

Honestly, I am not too excited with new figures as they are all selling at retail prices. For new figures, I rather order them online although the discount is usually offset by the shipping. At least I don't need to lug them in my luggage. I could not find any Digimon G.E.M that I missed out and I never saw Mandarake store. I better find the address and find the shop for next time. I am glad that I am not *that* into Gundam as there are so many interesting ones (i.e exclusive or limited) here. At Yellow Submarine, I saw a 9000 JPY ANA Gundam 1:48. If my luggage is still empty next week, I will definitely but that. Haha...

It has been an exciting and interesting day for me. I learn that most of the shops here have so many levels in one building. Sometimes, there are more than 1 stores in 1 building as different stores occupy different levels. As we go higher, the items tend to be more racy haha.. I know I should not come to Akiba with my family members. The R18 items are displayed very openly at the R18 levels. Heck, they even play porn DVD on the level selling the new and used porn DVDs. Okay, perhaps I should call it adult videos/AV instead of porn as what Japanese calls them. It makes my wonder why other countries are so particular about nudity etc when everything is so open in Japan and I don't think it corrupts or rots their society after all. One interesting observation is that I see more people at the adult sections of the animated characters than of the real humans. I can't understand why they enjoy cartoon characters more than real women. Oh ya, at the same R18 levels, they are also selling sex toys o_0 Hahaha.. Okay.. definitely no parents and no family members to come here.

On our way back, I saw Gundam cafe and AKB theatre side by side. I was too tired to look at them today. By the way, we are staying in Hotel New Star Ikebukuro. The location is pretty good as there are so many konbinis and eateries nearby. The hotel room itself is not as small as I expected. I think it is of normal size for a 2-3 star hotel although it may feel smaller as there is no clothes cupboard. But honestly, I still can live with the size. It is small but not inhumanely small. Same thing with the hotel. Aah and that automatic butt washer feels heavenly to ensure shitting experience a good one without wetting the floor. Lol..

So who says guys can't shop? We spent just 1 day at Akihabara leh!! Time to rest for our journey to Kyoto tomorrow ^^

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Nihon e ikimasu!

Yeaahh!! I am feeling very very excited to be flying to Japan for the first time in few hours time!! I was feeling sleepy after lunch and I thought I would take a nap after checking out Disneyland's parade timings first. However Disneyland made me too excited and my sleepiness disappears and here I am typing this now. Haha...

I am slowly learning the bad habit of packing last minute. It is not very me as usually I like to take my time and plan in advance. In August, before my short trip home, I started packing the day before. For this trip, I only started packing when I woke up this morning. Yeah.. less than 12 hours before the flight. I felt a bit down after packing as I realised that my wardrobe has not expanded since my trip to Europe in 2013. I know it is unnecessary stress to start planning what I am going to wear on which day for photos but the vainpot in me just could not help it. The weather forecast in Japan for the next week is full of rainy days with temperature ranging from 21-27 deg C which is like an aircon room. I don't know if I should bring long sleeve shirts or jackets to follow this as usually early September is still considered late summer.

I am travelling 'light' this time as I am setting aside space in case I buy a lot of toys from Japan. Haha.. Having said that, I actually brought limited JPY. I changed another 100k on Friday and the exchange rate was 11.91. That was 60 cents more as compared to the first time I changed! $60 loss for a lesson that I cannot be an investor. I thought of waiting for better rates but it did not happen. There was one time when the rate dropped back to 11.52 but I decided to wait. So I waited until the last day and the rate was just getting higher. Bleah.. I activated 1 credit and 1 ATM card for last resort if I really run out of cash.

To prepare for my Europe trip, I bought new clothes, digital camera, and Galaxy Note 8.0. This time I did not buy anything. I changed my phone recently but that was to use my Best Denki vouchers. Instead of waiting, I might as well change now so that at least I can bring new phone to Japan. I decided to buy Samsung Galaxy E7 for $498 because I was thinking of getting and iPod. Apple and I are never meant to be together. I am glad that I was patient as I realised latest version of iTunes does not cater to Windows Vista anymore. Yaiks!! If I had bought an iPod, there is no way I can transfer the songs!! There is limited choice of Sony Walkman and I decided to buy the $109 one.. I am left with $100 voucher T_T If I knew I would not be getting iPod, I would perhaps buy Samsung Galaxy A8 instead for $698 to use all my voucher!! Anyway this Sony Walkman is my very first purchase of mp3 player. Since young, I have never bought any. Those media players I owned in the past were always gifts.

I am basically writing backwards. On Wednesday, I decided to see a doctor regarding my stomach. I was expecting that the doctor would check for my hernia but the moment he heard I had hernia repair, he was 100% sure my discomfort could not be because of hernia recurrence. After 1 day MC, I felt much better. The pseudo-gastric discomfort and the pulling sensation on the groin disappeared. Perhaps I was just too tired recently? I don't know.. The doctor said it could be workplace hazard as I stand too long and gravity pulls everything down. Aiyayayaya...

I hope everything will be okay for the next 1.5 weeks. God, I pray for a safe and blessed holiday and I am sorry for skipping Mass this week and next week :'(

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out only opened in Singapore in August 27 although it was out since a few months ago in the US. The reviews have been very positive and I was looking forward to it, despite the somewhat bland and confusing plot when you read the synopsis.

I am confused about the main character of the movie as the story is about 5 emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear) present in Riley's mind from her birth up to her moving house to San Francisco. It sounds very boring but I am intrigued with the ideas and originality of how human mind is supposed to work. Given a situation, how a person responds will depend on which emotion is taking control. In this negative world, it is easy to think that Joy is the main emotion as she is the representation of everything positive and happy. However, the movie introduces that there is no negative emotion per se. Anger is there to make sure that things are fair for Riley, Disgust is there to prevent Riley from being 'poisoned' physically and socially, and Fear is there to keep Riley safe by looking out for potential dangers. Sadness may come across as irritating as useless but near the end, it is revealed that Sadness' role is to alert people surrounding Riley when she is in need of help.

There are a lot of references of how human brain is supposed to work: core memories, train of thought, long-term memory, imaginary friend, dream, memory dump, etc. I am sure every can appreciate that there are some things that we always remember (i.e core memories), things that we have learnt-sometimes forgotten-but we can recall it when needed (i.e long term memories being sent by recall tube), or things that we have totally forgotten and we can never remember (i.e memory dump).

Inside Out also depicts the importance of having a balance of the supposed positive and negative emotions. Things start to get haywire for Riley when Joy tries to suppress Sadness from expressing herself and things get worse when Joy and Sadness are trapped outside the Headquarters where the emotions 'control' Riley and Riley is slowly losing her personalities.

At the end of the movie, it is possible for Riley to have a memory formed from more than 1 emotions and how the emotion controller in the headquarters get 'upgraded'. This is perfect because children tend to be more innocent: they laugh when they are happy, they scream when they are angry, they cry when they are sad, etc, but as they grow up, they develop more complex feelings or emotions. There is a reference to puberty as well which none of the 5 emotions knows about. Yeah, puberty is tough.

I have a mixed feeling about Inside Out. I would say the movie is only average but I honestly appreciate the idea of how human mind work. That is really awesome. There are funny scenes too although I find them more with the emotions in Riley's parents mind. Again it is a nice touch that although the 5 emotions in different brains are the same, they are not exactly the same. The emotions in Riley's parents mind seem to be more mature than Riley's and even how mother and father's emotions interact are also different which underlines the difference between male and female. Haha...

I am glad that the movie does not end up being preachy about how important to be positive etc. I do agree that Joy has the most 'difficult' job to keep someone positive and to keep the other emotions 'in check' as the rest tends to be impulsive. Don't call me crazy but ever since I watched this, I will think that I have 5 little things in my mind. When I feel a certain emotion, I will tell myself that I know currently this xxx is controlling my mind. If I don't want, I will tell myself for yyy to please take over the control.