Sunday, October 22, 2017

International selling

When I started selling my old and unwanted toys, I never imagined I would ever sell to overseas buyers. It is even more surprising that the channel that got me overseas buyer is Carousell which is based in Singapore. I decided to give it a try after eBay and forum hardwarezone did not seem to work for me anymore.

The first one I sold was Final Fantasy VIII Transcendent's Artist Collection: Rinoa & Siren. This was sold in mid-2016 and I forgot to write about it. After getting an undamaged one in Jakarta, I have been putting the damaged one on sale. This figure gave me a lot of headache a few years ago because of a stupid proxy Shopping Mall Japan (the posts are here and here) and I better not keep anything that reminds me of that bad experience. The buyer was from Spain. I felt so bad for him because the statue was damaged and EMS from Singapore was about $200. In total it was a crazy amount for a damaged figure. Well since he was very sure on getting this, I was also more than happy to sell. As a collector myself, I can understand the occasional irrational behaviour when it comes to buying collectibles.
Spent about USD 900 with the damaged Squall & Bahamut. Sold this for USD 600.
I do not post much about Final Fantasy Chrome as it took me a few years to complete it and then got lazy to take photos and post about it. Some were bought as bundles and I end up with few duplicates. Thus I am in the midst of selling the duplicates. I managed to sell one yesterday to a buyer in Japan. I just find it amusing that I bought this from a seller in Japan and now I am selling it to another person in Japan.
Sold for $200 so that is quite a nice $50 profit
The thing about selling internationally is Paypal is usually the go to method for safe transaction. Unfortunately, paypal fee is about 5% of the transaction value. I personally hate it when seller passes on the fee to the buyer and therefore I myself am not doing that. So usually I will just suck it up but of course in the future if there are more foreign buyers, I guess I have start splitting half-half.

Lastly, I managed to sell the Dream Kingdom book that I just bought at Kyoto during last month's trip for $20 and it still did not help to cure my heartache for spending $45 for importing one before the trip. The buyer happened to be attending FF concert too so at least that I did not have to make special arrangement for it.

Thank God for the 2 items sold yesterday and I pray for more things to find buyers soon.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Final Fantasy Distant Worlds ~ Jiritsu

Jiritsu means 30 years old and that is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy series. This year also marks the 10th year anniversary of Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concerts which started during the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy series. To mark the special occasion, Nobuo Uematsu himself was present to attend the concert.

I was expecting something special to mark the special occasion but it turned out to be disappointing. I went for the concert last year (read the post here) and almost everything that I wrote is still relevant for this year's concert since the concert venue, the orchestra, and the conductor are all still the same.

The repertoire is seriously worse this year. It may be the first time some songs are played for Distant Worlds but choosing the less popular tunes and the mellow ones as the first few songs really bring the mood down. Even the more upbeat songs end with an anti-climatic tune instead of a loud orchestra kind of bang. This year's concert definitely did not sell out as on my level, the right wing was only 30-40% filled. My row and the row behind me were half empty after the first half. Arnie did not engage the audience as much as last year and I believe the audience were also less crazy than last year. Overall, the energy level was poor and disappointing even for the 'Sephiroth' chants during One Winged Angel.

Nobuo Uematsu was there in the audience and I was surprised that Arnie did not have more interactions with him. I thought it would be nice if Uematsu-san were to conduct 1 song as an encore but that did not happen. He ran to join the choir instead for One Winged Angel. But hey he seems to be a very nice and easy-going man and he clearly enjoyed and had fun.

One song that really blew my mind is FF 6 Opera song. It features several styles of music (from opera, waltz, game kind of music) and it also features soloists. With a grand ending, this is the kind of fantastic song for a live orchestra.

Medley is missing and I am still hoping for Dissidia ending theme song that features a glimpse of soundtrack from each series.

I missed the merchandise last year so I arrived earlier at about 630pm and I queued for merchandise for about 40 minutes. I only bought the concert booklet which is very expensive at $35 and they did not even have a carrier bag! Seriously.. There were Chocobo and Mog's plushie for 30th anniversary for $60 each. Only 100 pcs for each and it was sold out by the time I was there. Crazy.. Lucky I already bought them when I was in Japan. The shirt was reasonably priced for concert merchandise at $25 but the design is too plain to get me interested.

I bought the cheapest ticket this year for $72.50 with restricted view. Never ever I will do this again as I wanted to watch a live concert/orchestra, not watching a live screening through a monitor. After 2 years of disappointment, I am not sure if my fanboy energy is enough to convince me to again if there is another one next year -which I doubt since this year's was not sold out and the audience was rather emo too.
The small monitor should just show the VIDEO on screen. Clearly the person who makes this never sit here. The orchestra is visible and there is no need to show them again from the monitor. What we cannot see is the screen and showing the whole stage on the monitor makes the screen too small and we still cannot see anything

Sunday, October 15, 2017

USS Halloween Horror Nights 2017

I don't like USS and I swear I will never go in to pay. In fact the only 2 times I went to USS were because I had free tickets. I broke my promise as I paid about $50 for USS Halloween Horror Nights yesterday. A colleague recommended it as part of a team bonding so I said okay. Few weeks later she was transferred to another branch and I felt really really sian to go. Haiz..

The entry time began at 730pm. Since I worked and I had volunteering, I was deliberately late. Haha.. I only reached home at 7pm, had a quick snack for dinner since I doubted I would eat at USS, washed my face, and then left home at 730pm. Glad I was not kiasu since my friends queued for almost 1.5 hours just to enter the USS. Wew..

I wanted to go Sentosa through the board walk but my friend recommended to take 188R or 963R. It was a new information that there are public buses to Sentosa now. The bus frequency is once every 30 minutes so I should go via the board walk also. Not to mention that the timing for both buses were not searchable via sgbuses app.

I did not have to queue to enter (yay!) but right from the start I already felt kinda meh. I know it is for halloween but it was just freaking dark. It was so painful for the eyes and the brain to try to look for ways and avoid bumping to others/things in such low lighting and at the same time people were wearing devil horns with blinking lights.

Since I experienced the Halloween event in USJ a few weeks ago, I can't avoid making comparisons. USS scare zone is definitely done more elaborately but I find that it covers too small of the area. It is quite unfortunate that the lighting was too dark that all the hard work to make all the props and make-ups cannot really be appreciated by the visitors. Nah.. don't even consider think of photos unless you have a very atas camera.

My friends were still queue-ing for their first attraction when I arrived so I decided to just walk around. As previously, in just less than an hour, I completed 1 round already. Surprisingly, the eateries were not crowded at all. I guess everyone was so excited to go for the ride instead of eating.

In total I experienced 3 haunted houses: the shaman one, the shopping mall one, and the mind of the psycho killer one. The estimated time were 160 mins for the first one although the actual time was about half an hour less. As it was getting less, the waiting time for the later ones were shorter but still in between 1-2 hours. We left close to 130am (the official closing time mentioned is 130am anyway) because someone was driving. Otherwise I would leave at 1030pm. Haha.. I reached home at 2am and I am still feeling tired today. Age is catching up real quick.

It may not be fair to compare as I only went for 1 halloween attraction in USJ but I am quite disappointed with USS one. There were too many people and we were just walking continuously and swiftly as a group through the haunted houses. I did not find it scary or exciting as you could see what would happen or who would jump out just by seeing the people in front of you. The zombie forest I tried in USJ was more exciting because entry was for small groups and subsequently the path diverged and the group became even smaller at certain sections. That would be more exciting. Nonetheless, thumbs up for the props and decoration in the haunted houses.

I can't understand how people would pay for this kind of thing, queue for hours (and having black faces and complaining while doing so), and scream like mad with the attractions. They all should know what they are signing up for.

I guess I am too mature for halloween stuff as it is quite easy to predict what will happen. When there is a curtain or a door, there is a high chance someone will jump. When there are mannequins, there will be a few which are humans, and so on. Having said that, I am still childish enough to enjoy Disneyland :p

After last night, my impression remains: I don't like USS and I swear I will never go in to pay again.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Wayang king

It has been a long time that I do not rant about work and I think it is time for one. 2 months ago I asked my boss to transfer someone with more experience to my branch. Wish was not granted. I was given someone relatively new with the reason that it would be easier for me to manage a new staff. Furthermore she is someone cheerful and sunny which will inject some positivity to negate my negativity.

Last week I was informed that this person would be transferred again. Sigh.. all my hard work to train her and to gel her with the team just went to the drain. This time I would get someone with more experience as she has been working for >1 year. Did not I ask for someone with this kind of traits just 2 months ago?

Lucky I was informed through phone as if it were done face to face, I don't think I can hide my displeasure. When asked if I had any concerns, I actually sarcastically asked "Do I have a choice?". My boss laughed and said "No actually you don't". So what is the point of all the pleasantries? A few weeks later she mentioned that she forgot that another girl from my branch lives in the west or otherwise she would transfer her. Err.. as if it matters to me WHO get transferred. What matters to me is as long the transfer affects my branch, I will have to do the extra work to get the team together again and to train the new person again.

The change will only be effective this coming Monday and yesterday I received another phone call that this new person may not be permanent at my branch. Seriously.. what the hell.. Nah this time I did not even bother to say or ask anything. What's the point? Haiz..

I did not have time to do my own work for the past week as I am busy with clearing people's shit all the time. Currently I have 2 new staff who are giving me headache. My colleagues are in charge of their training but now that it is reaching a crunch time, I have to do something while my own pre-reg is doing his external rotation. 1 is to be confirmed in 1 month time and I had to do the dirty work to inform her the expectations or else she will not be confirmed as a staff. Imagine.. just after 3 months in this new role and I have gain karma by sacking people already. The other person is worse as she was confirmed by another branch and then transferred to me. Seriously if the other branch was just confirming her so that she could be thrown to me, it was a dick move. I already informed my boss that if within 1 week this person could not be independent, I want her to be transferred back to the branch that confirmed her. Eat your own shit, man!

I am also quite pissed with my colleagues who are in charge of their training but they are not doing anything extra to solve the problem. But I just heard one is planning to leave so whatever la.

The past 2 days are also a reminder how unfit I am to be in a leadership position. I still find it difficult to control my emotion. Deep in my heart, I want to be someone understanding that people will make mistakes and so on. But when their mistakes become problems for me to solve, I just lose my cool as it will just eat my own time for my own work.

I finally saw the end product of the video that was filmed few months ago. The voiceless acting part exceeded my expectations. In fact, I could not believe the faces that I made in the video. No way my face was like that in real life. Haha.. it was fully fake and called acting after all. The interview part was really embarrassing. I did not really pay attention to the words that I said as I was already so ashamed with my voice and my accent. Anyway I know my voice is so 'unique' that it always sounds very weird when it goes to any electronic device whether it is phone, microphone, PA system etc. I think I sounded like a small kid :( The accent was completely unexpected as people keep telling me that my Singlish is very good so it was really surprising that in the video it was damn obvious from my accent that I am a foreigner. As much as I am curious to listen to my words in the video, I think it was a blessing in disguise that I was too distracted to listen. Otherwise I would be very critical of myself with my choice of words or the unintentional grammar mistakes if there was any. I am so jealous of the other people in the video: how good and natural they are in the interview part. Obviously a career change is not an option for me anymore.

On a happier note, my photo has appeared in the corporate website and I am very happy that the quote picked for the caption the one more professional sounding. Lol. I think I look too giggly in the photo that it is obvious that I am wayang-ing again. Haha..

There are few people who asked me why I remove my specs for the photo or video. Obviously it is so that people cannot recognise me in real life. Haha.. another reason is because I think I look better without specs. So now it is left with the fall prevention video that I have not seen. I think this would be the most embarrassing one as I am acting with talking in this one T_T

Sunday, October 1, 2017

First race/run

I just completed CSC Run 2017 today. Few months ago, my colleagues and I were so excited about this as none of us had ever joined this kind of run. We joined out of curiosity and just to experience it. As the day came closer, we were feeling more and more dreadful. Last night I was regretting why I even thought of joining. I was so self conscious about what to wear for the race as I find the race singlet to be revealing. In the end I decided to just heck and still wear it as it is. Fat then fat lo. I think I can see a bit of improvement from the gym. At least now my arms show some definition of the biceps compared to the last time I took a photo with a singlet in Bintan 3 years ago.

I only trained once a few weeks ago before my Japan trip and my body was sore for the next 2-3 days. I did note even complete 5km lol. From that experience, I chose not to train again this week and just whack during the race. Thank goodness that I was able to complete the 5km. Running around the track and running around the city is a huge difference. The flag off time was 745am and I was done by 825am. That was much faster than my initial expectation of 1 hour. Not to mention that I only started jogging after the 1km mark. There was only 1 water point near the u-turn and as always, once I stopped, it was difficult to restart again. Subsequently it was an alternate jogging and walking.

The race starting and ending point was at Marina Barrage and the nearest MRT is at Bayfront. I think we spent more time on the way to MRT to take photos with our medals than the actual time spent for the race itself. Haha.. Not expected from a bunch of first time runners. I am pretty happy that I did not feel as tired or sore as the one and only training few weeks ago. Right now I am feeling more tired from the lack of sleep last night rather than from the race.

Finally I have met my target to experience this kind race/run and I don't think I will do this again in the future. I am not a fan of running/jogging after all.

It has only been 1 week since my holiday but my energy level is back to what it was before the holiday. Work really sucks. Not to mention that next week is already October and I just have to start throwing some interventions for my project.

I should have suspended my gym membership another week and to restart in October. It was kinda wasted since I only went for 2 times this week. I am still very lazy and tired. I have not even got the time to look and organise the photos taken in Japan.

I gained a few kgs when I went to Japan in 2015 and I am really scared to weigh myself. After a week, I decided to accept reality and I am very pleased that I actually lose weight! Omg omg I am back to 64kg. It has been a long time since I could get back to less than 65kg. I better not waste this opportunity to return to my cereal dinner everyday.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Owari da

Last meal in Japan
Japan holiday is over and I am just done unpacking. Lucky I am taking leave tomorrow as I don't think I can tahan. Haha.. Despite reaching early, the time at airport was quite tight. I was surprised that we are expected to remove our own tax free receipts stuck to our passports. Jeez.. If I knew that, I would have removed it earlier to save time. I cannot anyhow remove it so as not to damage the passport. I went to have tendon for breakfast. I was craving for tendon in the past 2 days but did not have the chance to eat one so at the airport was the last chance. By the time I reached the waiting gate, it was time to enter the plane so time well spent in the airport.

I was lucky that I had an empty chair next to me in the plane so I had a bit more space. I did not really sleep and spent most of the time watching movies: Sagrada Reset part 1 and part 2, Kiseki: Sobito of that Day and Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High. I was quite lost with the Sagrada Reset and I sort of fall asleep halfway during part 2. Because of that I rewound a bit and I did not manage to complete Teiichi. I should have watched Teiichi first because it is much more enjoyable. Kiseki: Sobito of that Day is a movie about the band GReeeeN and I am very glad that I watch it.

With the holiday over, it is time for some reflection. Firstly I have completed my calculations and this 1 week in Japan cost me about $4000. I did not feel that I spent so much because I came back still with so much cash. Lol.. This is the danger of credit card use overseas. Actually it is quite unexpected also as 2 years ago when I was in Tokyo, not many shops accepted credit card yet.

When travelling with others, it is always best to have an agreed itinerary. Otherwise, it is better not to travel together as it will create a lot of irritation. Or perhaps if just want to save on the accomodation, we can always have an agreement that we will split to pursue our own interests.

I did more shopping than taking photos at this trip and I realised that I enjoy taking photos and experienced new things (like the photo studios and onsen) more than shopping. Okay perhaps I should change that to I enjoy having my photos being taken. Lol. I also like to enjoy the places like the locals and to travel in a more relaxed pace instead of racing against time to cover as many places as possible.

Before I left, I felt anxious about the first day alone. But after the experience, I am quite confident to be travelling solo now :) At least to Japan. With internet connection, google map is always at the fingertips and there is little worry about getting lost. I have to admit that as much as I still prefer a hardcopy map, there will be times that google map will come to rescue me.

I have definitely developed a thicker skin to ask strangers to help me to take pictures. It is sad but majority cannot take photos to achieve my level of expectations and satisfaction. Perhaps I should reduce my own expectations of not having my legs cut, buildings cut, slanted pictures, disproportionate human and background, etc and just enjoy the moment. Sadly selfies are not an option for me since I don't like my ugliness to be accentuated.

This trip also served as a test if my attempt to learn Japanese for the past 2 years bears any fruit. Sadly I still have a loooooong way to go :( I really like and want to learn and revise again but I just don't have the time with my priority is for gaming and sleeping.

Okay time to tidy up my photos and get back to work again. Sian..

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Japan Trip Day 8: Osaka

All good things must come to an end and this is the last day of my holiday. Last day is always reserved for food and last minute shopping so I woke up later than usual this morning (still earlier than my friends). I went back to Don Quijote at Dotonbori to get 2 sets of jinbei, wasabi kit kat, and a Japan sling bag. It was a dilemma about the sling bag as I was torn between its utility and my needs. I like the design and all that but usually I carry so many barang-barang that surely this sling bag cannot fit. In the end I decided to get a discounted one (1900 yen from the original price 2900 yen) so that I could get the tax free. Alamak stupid me for not reading properly. The thing about tax free in Japan is that different shops have different requirements. I thought 5400 yen purchase in Don Quijote was the requirement but actually it was 5400 yen for consumables and 5400 yen for non-consumables. The tax free was not applicable to me as I bought a mixture of consumables (kit kat) and non-consumables (bag and jinbei).

Next destination was Kuromon Market which was bloody crowded as compared to the weekday when I went there with my friends earlier this week. It was crazy but I spent almost 10000 yen just for food and in a market. I don't want to think too much about it but they were good and they are in my stomach already. I tried not to overkill my stomach and my wallet so I decided not to get the kushiyaki, the fried stuff, and the croquettes. On the way there I passed by a vending machine that had the banana milk that I saw in Kyoto so I had a very happy brunch.
Grilled squid for 580 yen, Matsuzaka beef for 2500 yen, Wagyu sushi for 1500 yen, and Ootoro sushi for 2800 yen
I returned back to Yodobashi as there was a new section to celebrate Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary.  I bought the postcard set as well as the plushes that I missed the preorders. I also bought Chocobo card game hoping to sell them :(
With that, I declared that my holiday is over and I would only spend the rest of the day somewhere near airbnb. I kaypoh to check Mandarake Grandchaos again and as what I expected, the spot where Heero and Relena that I bought previously was taken by the matching SDX Divine Knight Wing. Ouch!! After googling, I discovered that this was actually offered by Premium Bandai Singapore earlier this year for $160 and Mandarake price was only 12000 yen. I went back to repack my items and then I decided to just buy it!! On the way to the cashier, I saw Aladdin & Jasmine figures from Tomy Disney Magical Collection for 1000 yen and 1200 yen respectively. These are figures from ages ago as I remembered the last time I saw them was in my early years in Singapore. They are so old that I cannot even find a decent google images of them.
SDX Divine Knight Wing
Can replace the head with Heero's head
It was not 6pm yet and after walking passed the photo studio where I made photos on the first day, I finally decided to be thick skin and do another session. This time I picked a darker and boring colour kimono. It was the same lady as last week and she still remembered me. I told her that I wanted more half body shots and if possible I wanted different poses. She was very nice to help to create more poses and gave suggestions when I wanted a lying down pose. Lol. The shop actually had a quiver property leh! Arrgh.. should have worn that too last week when doing the bow and arrow poses.

While waiting for the photos to be printed, I went back to Dotonbori to try gyoza from a shop that I passed by this morning. The gyoza was quite disappointing though.. Although I wanted to take away, the gyoza was not packed in a closed container so I ate it in front of a shop that played AAA Niji video on loop. Lol. This is one of the videos that usually I watch/listen on repeat at home too leh. Really a sign to go home soon. Starbucks was still crowded with the queue snaking outside the shop and it looks like I do not get to try any Starbucks in Japan.

After collecting the latest photos, I bought a wagyu burger from Amerikamura area just a few steps further from Mandarake as well as takoyaki from another store near our airbnb. From the 3 shops around, I think this is by far the best.

And that's all :( Sayonara T_T huhuhu

Friday, September 22, 2017

Japan Day Trip 7: Kobe, Arima Onsen

As expected yesterday about the split, I split with my friends right from the morning. Upon arriving in Kobe, a friend wanted to eat breakfast while I always wake up early to grab something from nearby Family Mart for breakfast so that I can have more regular meals. Thus I told them that I would make my wait to Nunobiki-no-taki or Nunobiki Falls first.

I am usually proud of my sense of direction with traditional map but today was not the day. The waterfall is of walking distance from the back of Shin-Kobe station but I went to the opposite direction. In the end I had to rely on google map and GPS. Along the way, I met my friends who were there earlier although they only made their way after their breakfast.

I was quite excited about the hike because I was expecting something like Fushimi Inari. Well I was very wrong because this was a real hike with steep angle and kinda rough rocky pathway. Along the way I was panting and had to take a break for photos. Lol. We reached the waterfall on top and it started to drizzle so we made our way back. The journey back down was equally difficult as the hike up. It was not as breathless but I had to be careful not to slip.
I did not there were a few waterfalls but I just took the stairs because on the map, the waterfall seems to be quite high in the mountain lol
Nunobiki-no-taki
My friends decided to explore the city while I decided to hike up another route which I believed would lead me to the herb garden. Again I was wrong as this route basically brought me back to the waterfall but from a higher view. The hike was equally tiring but felt a bit easier because each step was slightly bigger than the previous route. Usually I enjoy such scenic nature walk but with the slight drizzle and there was no other people along the way, I felt a bit worried too. Every rustle could be wild animals ready to pounce on me. Haha.. I took a break somewhere along the way where I met another 2 tourists and we struck a little conversation. At the top, I met another 2 tourists and I should have asked them to take a photo of me with the waterfall :( I was expecting that I would meet more tourists but because of the drizzle there was nobody else. So in the end I did not have any photo from the other side of the waterfall.
The other side and higher side to view the water fall
It was totally not planned but I decided to go to Arima Onsen instead of exploring Kobe. This was because I saw some signage about Arima Onsen at Shin-Kobe station and it is not that far to go there. I wanted to have lunch first but most eateries at Shin-Kobe were full and I should just go find lunch at Arima. Onsen is a Japanese culture that is very unique. It is natural human feeling to not want to get naked in front of other people and despite my adventurousness, I still had reservations. I decided to just YOLO. Anyway I was alone and with noone I knew, I don't care if strangers see me naked. 

There are several onsens but after quickly googling, my choice is only Taiko no Yu as it is the only one providing towels and reviews mention to be quite English-friendly. It was drizzling (heavier than at Kobe) and again I lost my way before deciding the use google map and GPS. It required a bit of hiking so it was my third time hiking today. With all the sweat and discomfort, I really needed a good bath.

Let me describe the onsen experience. Upon entering the building, I was supposed to remove my shoes and put them in the locker in front. During check in (the 2400 yen was paid up front), the reception kept the locker key and I got another key for the locker inside the onsen facility. A bathing towel, a face towel, and the kimono to be worn in the facility were provided. I was quite happy with rabbit pictures and I got to choose green kimono colour as well. Haha.. There was this barcoded bracelet thing to be used inside for the food and omiyage so there was no need to carry wallet. Upon check out, the barcode was scanned again and anything additional was paid then.

The changing area was quite big and I was quite lost. There was no others and I was not sure what I was supposed to do. I knew I was supposed to change to the kimono here but I was not sure if I was suppose to keep my underwear or not. I went to the toilet to change to my bottom as I did not want anyone to see me naked in the locker room lol. I decided to just not wear my underwear.

Taiko no Yu is actually part of Arima View hotel and the entrance for non-hotel stayers is on the 3rd floor. The onsen facilities are in the 2nd floor. Before entering the onsen proper, there is another locker room to put the kimono as now really have be naked already. Tada...

For someone wearing specs, the different temperature caused foggy lens. It was not as if I wanted to see other people naked clearly but I had to have clear vision to not lose my footing. I have done proper research of onsen etiquettes and watched Japanese shows or anime with onsen scenes so I knew I had to shower first before going into the onsen.

The change in temperature with the onsen water was not too bad but I nearly slipped as the onsen water was quite streamy. It was not easy to manouver to ensure that the towel did not touch the water, hair did not touch the water, my specs, and I did not know if the barcode bracelet thingy could be immersed in water or not (after seeing others, it was actually fine).

The good thing about Taiko no Yu is that there are 2 types of water: the brown and the clear one. The brown one is suitable for the shy one as anything under the water is not visible. Haha.. So yah no need to expose myself and no need to see others' dicks as well. Taiko no Yu also has an outdoor area. The outdoor area is not completely open with roofs made of planks of wood with gaps between the planks. As it was raining, those woods were helpful so that we could still soak and not drenched. Just before returning to the locker, there was another onsen with cold water. I am not sure what the purpose is but it was refreshing to dip there for awhile before going back to the locker.

After experiencing both, I decided to have my lunch. It was still around 2pm and since I only used 1 towel, I decided to go the onsen again after lunch to repeat the experience another time. I really had to take some pictures as proof that I had been here. There was a purikura machine so this was where my 100 yen coins were finally useful lol. Still not enough and I asked other visitors to take a picture of me near the wall with the Taiko no Yu signage.

Yay! Finally I get to strike another thing from my bucket list. Haha.. Today is a Friday so luckily it is not so crowded. It will be quite uncomfortable to dip if there are too many people. The crowd was also mostly old people and I only saw a handful of young people. It is really interesting and I cannot understand how some people are perfectly comfortable naked with their friends. Some were not even trying to cover their modesty. Lol.

I left about 3pm and there was a free bus to the station running every half an hour. I should have waited for this bus earlier instead of being impatient and tried to find my own way which in the end took longer because I lost my way also.

On the way back to Osaka, I thought I lost my way as the station names were different from those in the morning. I got Hankyu and Hanshin confused and I was actually going back to Umeda instead of Namba. No wonder all the station names were different. It was raining at Osaka so I went back to airbnb first to get my umbrella and I decided to try the takoyaki from a stall near there. As always with my luck, when I went out again with the umbrella, the rain already stopped and there was no need of the umbrella at all -_-

It was ironic that I stayed a stone throw away but only now on the 2nd last day of the trip that I went to explore Dotonbori area. There was nothing to buy at Bookoff, the Starbucks queue was crazy, and I just had dinner at one of the cafes at the subway as I was too tired to walk to Takashimaya again. I went to Don Quijote at Dotonbori and yay, there is jinbei here. I don't need to go back to Kyoto tomorrow just to get jinbei lol. Although I am also tempted to go see the anime shops at Avanti malls la.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Japan Trip Day 6: Osaka

My legs gave up and after much deliberation I really had to give Kiyomizudera and Fushimi Inari a miss. I only went to the flea market at Toji Temple that my friend had been very excited since it only takes place on the 21st of the month. I did not buy anything but I ate takoyaki there. On the way back, I went to Bookoff near the station. Wow it seemed that my effort to learn Japanese is not completely useless. I am able to navigate better although the downside is I am spending more time there. I could not find any book that I aimed to find but my heart pained when I saw Dream Kingdom. I just bought it through proxy about 2 months ago and in total it cost me $45 and here I found it only for 360 yen!!
I saw a banana milk drink from a vending machine and that was nice. Hmm.. I never saw this in Osaka. I went to Kyoto station to visit Aventi mall. This is the mall where I bought a lot of second hand anime books 2 years ago. Sadly the whole floor of anime shops was closed as they were preparing for moving up to level 6 for this Saturday. WTH!!! Wasted trip sia... I went to Don Quijote for the first time and I was amazed with their stuff. I saw some boots only for 1200 yen. Wow.. that would be nice for winter. There were a lot of cheap shoes, bags, and t-shirts too. The one caught my interest the most was jinbei and I decided to definitely buy this when I am back in Osaka.

I took train back to Osaka and it was a sad realisation that today is already Thursday :( Holiday is ending and it is time to start buying things to pack home T_T There was a post office somewhere near Namba Nankai station but I went round and round just to locate it. I bought 2 large boxes (210 yen each) to pack my things. I planned to get mochi etc that comes in nice packaging boxes for souvenirs and hence I needed boxes to ensure they were not crushed in the luggage. I overestimated my own luggage and I could only put 1 box. The other one was wasted.

I went to get souvenirs from Big Camera again and the cashier queue was crazy. I thought the queue was crazy the other day because it was almost closing time. I was quite pissed with the PRC tourists as they were bloody noisy. One wanted to cut queue and I gave a death glare. I don't care if you only had 1 item but the queue was long, everyone was queueing, and you bloody hell gotta queue. For the first time, I also scolded the cashier. I am pretty sure she is also a PRC and not a Japanese from her lousy attitude: chit chatting with her neighbour and withou the usual Japanese polite mannerism and hospitality. No matter where, I find it irritating and rude when people assume that I am from China and I speak Mandarin. Apparently in Japan I only experience this when the shop is filled with PRCs. Again another death glare for me as I told her to speak to me in English and not assume that I am from China just because of my face. All the time wasted to look for the box from the post office earlier was really wasted as Big Camera also sells similar boxes T_T Plus the price is cheaper too (160 yen). Something to remember the next time I go Japan.

I went back to our airbnb again to start packing so that I got a rough gauge how much more things I could buy. Haha.. After this I went to Denden Town and I decided to explore the area by walking to Denden on the ground, rather than underground. It was a good decision as I realised that from our airbnb, we literally just walk straight to Nankai Namba station. That means on the last day when we are leaving, we can just walk on the ground and avoid having to carry the luggage up and down the staircases if we are going from the underground route that I am more familiar with.

I reached Denden Town when the sun was down and honestly I felt quite uncomfortable as it became rather deserted and quiet. It is nothing like Akihabara which remains buzzing with lives even after the sun is down. There was no new items to buy so it was quite a quick shopping.

For dinner, I finally got to buy stuff from Takashimaya food area. I was still eyeing for the gyoza but I was really not sure if the plastic packaging would be fit for microwaving. It was still about 7pm+ but all the food stalls were already discounting their items. Hmm hmm :D To avoid overeating and because my hands were full, I decided to buy things in moderation. I bought fried squid and kakiage with sakura shrimps topping from a stall for 510 yen which was a good bargain considering the regular price to be about 400 yen each. Sadly the kakiage was bad and I could not finish it. I nearly vomitted as I really could not stand the texture of the sakura shrimps.

After dinner, I went out to Don Quijote near the airbnb and siao liao they don't have the jinbei that I saw in Kyoto. That means I need to find other Don Quijote in Osaka and in the worst scenario, I will go back to Kyoto on Saturday.

Tomorrow is officially the last day of travelling. We will go to Kobe but we have no idea what to see or what to do there. There is a high chance that I will separate myself as my friends are more interested in shopping and man-made attractions while I am more inclined with the nature.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Japan Trip Day 5: USJ

Last night I checked the opening hours and the website stated 9am. We reached about 830am and they already allowed people to enter. Hurray!! I wanted to take a photo with the Universal rotating globe just before the entrance but my friends wanted to go inside quickly. Sian... One friend kept mentioning about timed ticket to Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I was super pissed. I told him that only when park is crowded then there would be a timed ticket. Otherwise it would be free to enter and exit the Wizarding World anytime.

There were not so many people yet and we could even take picture with the Weasley's Ford Anglia without a queue. Taking a picture without other tourists at Hogsmeade entrance was impossible though. My photo was not centered and when I asked my friend to retake, he refused. That was it! I decided that I would just split today and had fun on my own. No point going with friends with different interest. Fuck.

Although my mood was gloomy, there was no chance to waste to take pictures with the Hogwarts Express, Three Broomsticks (not open yet), and the Owlery. Again the fucking friend did not want to help to take a photo outside Ollivanders. For the photo with Hogwarts in the background was taken by the USJ staff. That was the beginning of my thick skin journey to just ask staff and strangers to take photos. The photo taken was not too good (my legs and the towers were cut) but I was too shy to ask her to repeat, even when she asked. Haiz.. Regret.. My first time ma.. I thought she would be stationed there throughout the day but that was not the case.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was our first ride of the day. It was not bad to just queue for about half an hour for that. Before entering the castle, we had to store our belongings at the designated lockers. After which there is a small walk through the castle which I think is disappointing as a Hogwarts Castle Walk attraction. Despite all the rave reviews, I think the ride itself is too kiddy and is not as magical or exciting as the description. Perhaps after the experience of Battlestar Galactica, everything else feels like chicken feet. Lol.

After this, my friend wanted to do the Dragon Ball attraction. Again I was pissed again. Theme park is usually designed with one main pathway around the whole park. It does not matter to walk which way since eventually we will be able to reach. Bleah.. Dragon Ball attraction sucks because it is like a theatre show. The movement of the seats is not dramatic or exciting, the animation of the fights are nothing special too, so the whole experience is just like watching cinema. My friend wanted to watch Jojo which would be in the afternoon but I would give it a miss since it would be this kind of cinematic experience.

I split myself from them as I wanted to freely explore the park. The next ride I went was Spiderman which is another one that has great reviews for USJ. Thank God for the single rider as I only needed to queue for about 15 minutes. There is no need to deposit the bag and the seat is only secured with a bar across the thigh. It looks like not a very exciting ride but oh boy I had a better time than at Harry Potter ride: it was more bumpy and exciting and there were more heat and water effects. At the end, Spidey took a photo and I was planning to re-do this ride another time later and I would remove the 3D glasses to take a good photo. Lol.

I returned to Wizarding World of Harry Potter and whee there was still no timed entry. It was still about 11am but I decided to have lunch at the Three Broomsticks before the lunch crowd came. I chose roast beef (the most expensive in the menu) and cold butterbeer. Yeah!! Finally I get to taste butterbeer although actually there was nothing fantastic about it. Haha.. I still could get an outdoor seat although it was still under a canopy. I asked the staff to take a photo of me and because of my seat under a canopy, I could not get a nice picture with Hogwarts at the background. My face appeared black under the shade.
The butterbeer glass is a souvenir to bring home
With full tummy it was time to explore the various Harry Potter shops to decide on what to buy. I made up my mind not to get the jackets because they are quite pricey and I don't think I would have the opportunity to wear them in Singapore's weather. Hedwig dolls looked horrible so it was an easy decision not to get. I was still undecided if I would get some wands.

USJ is already celebrating Halloween event and when I walked from Spiderman back to Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I passed by a photo shop which would also do a halloween make up. I spent quite a long time to decide if I should enter to ask for more details but in the end I decided to just have a thick skin and enter. It was quite expensive as it cost 5000 JPY just for a halloween scar. For the photoshoot, it would cost near 10000 JPY and I did not even bother to ask how much.

Minion park was super duper crowded. I think this is the most popular area, even more than Harry Potter, which is a good thing as I am not a fan of Minion. Haha.. It was still early so I decided to be more adventurous to try other attraction. I tried one of  the Halloween's attraction called Deadmen's Forest which had no queue. Forest theme also did not sound as scary as those haunted house kind. Before entering I asked if this only involved walking or there would be puzzle. I would not enter if there is puzzle since I will not understand.

This Deadmen's Forest is not scary at all. Perhaps because I was doing it in the middle of the day and the forest is an outdoor area. With the sun up high on the sky, it was not scary at all. Haha.. I would have to say that other people were really scaredy cats and I ended up in the front of my group. I did not find it scary because the Japanese were polite. Although they were dressed as zombie etc, their body language was not threatening and was not attempting to even come closer to scare us. Yet the other people were screaming like what.. Come on.. Well doing this at night may be more challenging. The memorable thing about this was there was a guy in full Spiderman body suit (minus the mask) behind me. Spiderman running from zombies is quite an interesting scene. Haha..

The next two rides that I was interested were the Flying Dinosaur and the Jurassic Park. I read the Jurassic Park can be quite wet and I confirmed with the staff there. No shop was selling poncho and I saw people drenched so I decided to give a miss. The Flying Dinosaur is a monstrosity. After Battlestar Galactica experience, I swear that I would never ever torture myself to this kind of thing. Not to mention that the single rider waiting time was also 120 minutes. In the end, since I had so much free time, I decided to YOLO. The time was overestimation as I actually only queued for about 1 hour.

The set-up is already scarier than Battlestar Galactica because after sitting, the seat is rotated 90 degrees upwards and the humans are facing downwards. It is already super crazy as there is no sense of security with the feeling of being hung and hoisted on our backs. I tried not scream but apparently screaming is the most effective way to survive this. Even closing eyes alone did not help haha.. At the end of the ride, I looked at my watch and the ride itself was actually only for less than 2 minutes but it felt like forever. Haha.. As a memory of my craziness, I decided to buy the photo on the ride. For 2800 yen, the photo was actually not nice la. Really I just got it as a proof that I survived lol.

I almost went to the WaterWorld but after reading that it was more like a show than a ride, I decided to just return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again. Again there was still no timed ticket hehe.. I tried the Ollivander's wand show (which I think is quite lame..), Flight of the Hippogriff (despite the review that this was more for kids and yes it is actually quite tame as compared to the other rides), and repeated the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again. Both did not have single rider queues. I waited for about 45 minutes for Flight of the Hippogriff which was accurate to the estimation. While for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the estimated waiting time was 90 minutes but I only waited for about 1 hour. It was still freaking 5pm!! Lol. Time for some skin thickness again as I asked the staff to take photos of me with Hogwarts at the background haha..

I decided to eat dinner again at the Three Broomsticks as I wanted to watch the Dementor light show from there. Unfortunately I saw a wrong timing T_T The light show started at 630pm and not at 6pm.  Really sad because this time I could get a seat really in the open area. There was no way I could sit down quietly for 1.5 hours. Even after finishing my dinner and asked the staff for more photos, it was still 6pm.
The fish and chips was not even good (but nothing else boneless in the menu). Tried frozen butterbeer and the ice cream version
After that I waited at the designated areas to watch the light show which I have to say is disappointing. At this time, the crowd seemed to be focused at the Wizarding World for this show and after this, I lost my mood to revisit Spiderman. I decided to just do my shopping. So as not to go home empty handed, I decided to just buy 1 Harry Potter quidditch t-shirt. It is expensive (4800 yen) for a t-shirt but that is the most wear-able one.

Despite having the fake China-made Harry Potter wands, I know I always to get at least 1 original wand to compare the quality. I know I will get Sirius' as it has the most elaborate and beautiful design but I was decided between a normal wand (4500 yen) or a magical wand (4900 yen). The magical wand is the one that I can play at designated as if I am doing magic. It comes with a rather nice map of Hogsmade to find the areas and the spells (and wand movements) to do. The magical wand is bulkier and feels more like a toy so in the end I bought a normal one for Sirius' and for the magical wand, I decided to buy an original wand of Holly. I chose Holly based on the elaborate design of the wand rather than the description. I also bought a Sneakoscope (1600 yen) and unfortunately Remembrall was just for display but not for sale.

It was time to say goodbye to Harry and the timed entry for Wizarding World had begun. Lucky I already saw the dementor light show. I went to buy the One Piece premier show book (2500 yen) with the intention of selling it and Spiderman mask. The mask is made of cloth so it really feels authentic and it is reversible as Venom's mask. It feels like a 2-in-1 thing and not bad for 3900 yen. I bought a few more Spiderman paraphernalia hoping to sell them and get some money back. Haha.. I was tempted to get Dragon Ball's balls but decided not to since I am not a fan.

The halloween event had begun and the ghosts/zombies were roaming on the street but they were not scary at all. The only one I found scary was the one holding real chainsaw. Lol.. I was scared of the chainsaw. The actors were too polite and did not even try to come closer to scare the people at all.

We left USJ at about 8pm and I dropped by to JUMP shop near the station. The shop is bigger than the one at Osaka station but equally have nothing interesting to buy. My legs really could not make it anymore and I decided to go home earlier.

Overall I think USJ is not as exciting as Disneyland although it is also not as stressful as Disneyland. I say Disneyland is stressful because there are too many things to see and I really have to keep a watch on the schedule of the parades and special events. In USJ, I cannot be bothered with the parades and events lol. The only stressful thing about USJ is the fear of timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Having said that, I am still satisfied with the Harry Potter experience. The area is not as big as my expectations but the experience is still as magical as my expectations though butterbeer is just over-hyped.
Hogwarts at night.. Time to say sayonara
I am pretty proud of myself today as I think I have increased my skin thickness to ask for strangers to help me to take pictures. Haha.. even to repeat some of them. Well the strangers today were still USJ staff and the next level is fellow tourists. Lol.
Time for SERIOUS reflection after spending about 30k yen in a day (inclusive of food)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Japan Trip Day 4: Nara

I was really looking forward for today for the deers in Nara. We stay so near Dotonbori and every morning we can take photo with the Glico man. Unfortunately my friends do not want :( The photos taken yesterday were enough for them. Emo.. haiz

As we left early, it was still quite cool and quiet when we reached Nara. The journey from Osaka was also less than an hour. While Kyoto was underwhelming yesterday, Nara blew my mind away. I was expecting that the deers would be only at the park but the deers were literally everywhere, even at the road side as we walked from the station to the park. My mom and sister went here before and they said would have deer shit smell but I did not smell anything so everything was good.

Initially as there were few people, I was quite scared to approach the deers as I did not know if the deers outside the park were used to humans. The desperation to experience petting deers and to take photos eventually overcame my initial fear. Outside the museum, there was a lone deer and I tried to approach her (yes no horn so it was a female). Aaah.. sugoi.. it was approachable and it happily closed its eyes as I was petting her. I could even see tears from her eyes T_T I don't know if it was because of the son or it was happy for me. I don't think it was sad because otherwise why it would want to be pet by me?

Deers are nice but humans sucked. Sigh.. I was so angry with my friends as they could not get good pictures :( It was so difficult to get nice pictures with the deers facing the cameras and yet they could not get a proportional picture (never zoomed in) or when they zoomed in, parts of my body or the deers body ended up cut. Haiz.. One friend was scared and refused to touch the deers while the other one was only willing after I tried to see if the deers were okay or not. Bleah..

The park had more tourists and I would recommend not to buy the deer food. The deers were gentle and calm but once there was food, they would chase after the food. I was quite pissed with the tourists who were screaming and scared during feeding. What did they expect?

Near the Todaiji Temple was the carpark and this was where the throng of tourists alighted. Honestly this place stank more than the deers. Guess where the tourists were from.. no prizes though. We did not enter the temple and we decided to go back. There was a spot near the lake where the temple could be seen and we took pictures there. Initially there was nobody and after we took photos, the tourists behind us wanted to. Tsk.. Stop following me and be creative la. So irritating.

We walked back and my friends had breakfast while I went shopping. I decided to only get a Shikamaro plushie instead of a deer plushie which is rather big although looks cuter. Shikamaro is the character mascot for Nara. Honestly I don't think it is super cute or what but I cannot leave a place that I enjoy without any souvenir.
Shikamaro-kun
We actually only spent about 2 hours at Nara and we decided to spend the rest of the day at Denden Town. We passed by Kuromon market and I was keeping a few stalls in mind for lunch on the way back or for the last day.

At Denden Town, I could not really find what I wanted to get: Free! books as well as Yuri on Ice books (I could only find one Yuri on Ice book). There was Conan Ultra Detail Figures but the set was missing Ran and I decided not to get. Anyway they are quite small so it is okay not to get them as there are larger sizes Conan figures out there. The surprise discovery, however, was Aladdin figure. Hehe..
Banpresto WCF Disney Story 00 Special Memories Vol 1
It was bundle of the vol 1 for 3800 yen and I got additional loose Aladdin for 600 yen. I saw some figures from vol 2 but it was not a complete set and I gave that a miss too.

After that we went back to Umeda as my friend finally decided to get something from Mandarake there. I wanted to visit Jump store and it was disappointing. Bleah.. I took some photos of the Jump store. I could get clear pictures without the crowd and I actually wanted to take photos outside the store :( But after the sucky attitude that my friend had this morning with the Nara pictures, I decided to just take photos without me. Haiz.. Save me the additional anger and irritation.

Haikyuu!! is clearly the theme but there are some Dragon Ball and One Piece items. I like Haikyuu!! but I am not a fan of mugs, keychains, pins, can badges, etc. So there is nothing for me to buy.
Jump store Osaka
 The side wall outside

My legs were so tired and I wanted to go home. Another friend was shitting and we had no idea why it took us so long. Then the friend who was with me reminded me that this place had Uniqlo and Disney store that I mentioned I wanted to visit yesterday. It seemed that all the tiredness made me forget all these things. Nonetheless, we decided to take a look rather than standing and doing nothing while waiting.

There was nothing to buy from Uniqlo as well with nothing interesting and nothing on sale. The bookstore at Lucua also had nothing I wanted. There was a Disney store as well with somewhat different item compared to the Shinsaibashi's store but similarly there was nothing to buy.

I have no idea how my legs will survive for USJ tomorrow sia T_T

Monday, September 18, 2017

Japan Trip Day 3: Kyoto

I woke up at 530am as I took the longest time for my acne creams and I wanted a quiet time in the toilet. Haha.. I am very self conscious with toilet sounds. With Family Mart is just a block away, I also wanted to grab a breakfast first while waiting my friends' turns to shower.

Before going to the station, we dropped by to the famous Glico board and it was nice to take photo when the background was completely empty from other tourists. Hehe.. Usually this area is always full of tourists and impossible to get a photo without other people in the picture.
The journey to Kyoto was about an hour but there was a hiccup when the initial train line we intended on taking had disruption because of the storm. We went for an alternative way which brought us to Umeda and Osaka station. None of the shops were opened yet but we made a mental note to return here for Yodobashi, Disney Store, and Shonen Jump store. There was a preparation for Square Enix cafe too but sadly it only opened in October ;'( Why T_T

Our first destination was Arashiyama. Honestly I was quite disappointed as it was literally just a bamboo forest and somehow reality is not as nice as the photos of the place online :( The narrow pathway, the rather short distance, and the number of tourists are just bad combination to take a nice photo without strangers. Haiz.. We walked until Torokko Arashiyama station but there was nothing much to see. It is the station for the scenic railway rather than for the transport back to the Arashiyama station where we came from. I tried the matcha ice cream there which was not matcha-ful enough for my taste. So we had to walk back through the bamboo forest again. There are actually other places of interests in the vicinity but with the interest of time, we did not really explore further to find the temples or the famous bridge and we made way for the next destination.
No where as nice as those internet images :(
The only good view after the distant walk to Torokko Arashiyama station
Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavillion was our second stop. Again I felt irritated with my friends who just follow GPS blindly instead of looking at surrounding signs etc. Well I can't complain since I also can't be bothered about finding ways. I don't know if the anticipation made my expectations soar sky high and I ended up feeling underwhelmed. Kinkakuji in real life does not look as grand as those internet images. It was impossible to replicate those images too unless you climb a tree or take a photo with a drone to get a reflection on the water. The building is also not as tall as I expected. There is not a lot of space to take a photo so it was a frustrating experience to get a nice and quiet photo spot. My friends followed the throng of tourist instead of trying to find a nice spot ourselves. Haiz.. after I found, there were so slow and we missed that golden chance when there was no tourist. Really sian :(
The reflection on the water is not as clear and as majestic as those internet pictures :(
We sort of over-estimated the size of Kyoto and we thought that we could only visit Arashiyama and Kinkakuji today. It was still about 2pm+ and the travel to Ginkaku-ji from Kinkaku-ji is just about 40 minutes by bus. It was a blessing that the staff at the bus stop could speak English and I am glad that I asked her how to go to Ginkaku-ji. Otherwise we would be waiting at the wrong bus stop.

Ginkaku-ji or the Silver Pavillion is not painted in silver, unlike its name. Haha.. It is a zen place and I have agree about the zen-ness as the walk around the area managed to quieten my temper a little bit although I was still pissed that I could not really get nice photos without other tourists. By the way both Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji have very interesting entry tickets that look like ancient charms to ward of evil spirits.

On the way back, I decided to get matcha chou which was damn good this time. I bought green tea drink from the same store expecting the same intense matcha taste but the drink was meh. It was too diluted.

The bus stop was super crowded so I suggested to walk to nearest subway which was about 2 stops away. I guess I miscounted as we walked for about 30+ mins. Lol. Luckily the weather was not too scorching. It was surprisingly quiet for a Monday and the impression that I had is that Kyoto feels more like European cities.

In the train station, we had our first disagreement at the train station. One friend has never been to Fushimi Inari and would like to hike all the way while the other friend had been there and did not want to hike all the way. Let's call A and B to make it easier. So B was suggesting that we go to Fushimi Inari but I did not want to wait 2 hours until evening for A to climb. We were ahead of our plan in Kyoto so I did not see any problem of following the old plan to go Fushimi Inari on the second day in Kyoto and to let A have better time to hike and take photos. After that, we missed the train stop because again people were trusting their google map more than their own brain to look at the stations. Well if you don't want to contribute, the best action to do is just to shut up like me instead of arguing and making the situation worse.

We went to Aeon mall near Kyoto station and again there was nothing that I could buy. I did not mind waiting for my friends to shop as in total for the past 2 days, I managed to get 50000+ yen worth of purchase from them and that is free miles for my credit cards. Haha..

Dinner was another passive-aggressive conversation between both friends: 1 wanted buffet and 1 did not want but did not dare to outwardly say so and kept making sarcastic remarks. I honestly did not not want but I decided to give in this time and hence I was agreeable without saying anything. The buffet was quite shocking as it was only free flow of drinks, vegetables, and ice cream -_- The meat was only 6 pieces for each person. No wonder the Japanese can be so slim if their buffet is as only like that.

On the way back home, JUMP! store was already closed :( but we still went to Yodobashi for a while although my legs really wanted to give away. And that's all for today which is a rather underwhelming day despite ticking the major touristy areas in Kyoto. None is as satisfying as Fushimi Inari.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Japan Trip Day 2: Osaka

After a tiring day, I woke up at 830am which was still earlier than my set alarm clock. My friends arrived this morning so I had to pick them up at the station. I used the chance to explore Namba area. Osaka is more relaxed than Tokyo and the shops seem to open at a later timing. I had difficulties finding breakfast and I decided on MOS burger. There is onion ring+fries combo though there are only 2 pieces of onion rings.

I managed to find Takashimaya again (which is actually just outside Namba Nankai station immediately after arriving from airport). The department store was quite nerve wrecking as the people kept greeting even when I only passed by. It would be quite intimidating to take a look at the prices. I checked out Uniqlo which is not cheaper than in Singapore so I bought nothing.

My friends were not trying to find free wifi and after waiting at the station, they messaged me that they were already waiting at the airbnb. I gotta walk back but too bad for them to wait there. When I reached, they were nowhere! After 15 minutes, they messaged again andthey were actually waiting at the other door. Jeez... clearly they never read the airbnb guide to get the directions. I hate people who just follow GPS or google map blindly and not prepared for travelling.

We went to Osaka Castle as one friend had not been there. It was less crowded and the weather was friendlier than my visit 2 years ago. The main castle was closed this time and the Disney coin machine is not there anymore :( I could not get nice pictures since both friends are terrible and this would be ruining my holiday. Haiz.. I was well prepared with coins to get Disney's coins at Osaka Castle but the machine was no longer there T_T

From here we went to Umeda and surprisingly there was nothing to buy at Mandarake Umeda. Wow.. It seems that I will spend less for toys at this trip. Haha.. My friend has a friend who works in Osaka and he shared that because of the storm, there was a possibility of disruption of train service. Thus instead of exploring Umeda, we just had late lunch and quickly return to Namba area. We dropped by at Shinsaibashi. The Disney Store was pretty interesting although there was nothing worth buying.

I just realised that Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori were actually connected so we walked all the way to our accommodation. My friends wanted to check Mandarake Grandchaos while I decided to just get the Heero and Relena figurine set for 8000 JPY.
 Normally I dislike SD style but Gundam Wing merchandises are rarely made so it is an easy decision to just get this
We also went to Big Camera Namba and there was 1 floor to get food souvenir. Hmm.. good good I would not need to travel far to think of souvenirs. There was a 100 yen shop too. My friend wanted to buy Kimi no Na Wa limited edition and I offered to take the cash and used my credit card to pay. It was really a pleasant surprise that payment by credit card was given 5% off!! Japan is always notorious as a cash society so it seems that that they are finally embracing cashless services. Giving 5% for card payment is essentially an encouragement to use credit cards.

This morning the hot water was still not working so I informed the airbnb contact person. In the evening, the host actually dropped by. Wow.. She spoke little English while I spoke little Japanese so communication was difficult. No wonder the contact person in airbnb is like an agent or something. It was quite paiseh to get her to come because in the evening all the hot water seemed to be functioning already.

Let's call it early day tonight since my friends need to rest and we all need to start early to go Kyoto tomorrow.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Japan Trip Day 1: Osaka

It is a sign of aging when I feel sian instead of excited for a red eye flight. Not to mention that SQ check in was horrible. If they know that what I experienced is normal for pre-midnight flights then they should do something better. I queued for a total of 1 hour. After 30mins, I was diverted to the business class check-in counters. Another 30mins there becayse the stupid slow lady at the counter who in the end rudely informed me that I can use other counters too.

I was mostly asleep in the flight right from the start. I didn't even realise when the peanuts and amenity kit were distributed. I did not really sleep soundly as I kept 'punching' each other with my neighbour but both of us were too tired anyway.
Upon arrival, I tried my luck to ask my airbnb host for an earlier check in. Sadly there was another occupants on the night before :( No choice but to go to the KIX lounge for shower. I was quite lucky to get the biggest shower cubicle. There is a 15 minutes limit for the shower but the time only starts after the coin is inserted so it is very reasonable. I even had time to take pics inside lol. In the end I spent almost 40 minutes and 1000+ yen for the shower, towel and free drinks (only managed to get 1 glass of calpis and 1 glass of water because I spent too much time taking photos).
I was lucky to be assigned to the biggest shower room. If I wanted, I could even bring my luggage inside to have a change of clothes lol.
The shower cubicle is surprisingly big
There is a special coin to be placed here to start the water and 15 minutes of showering time. I finished in 2.5 minutes. By the time I took photos, the timer showed 9 minutes which means I spent longer to take photos than to shower :p
There was a storm in southern Japan and so suay that it affected my trip. 2 years ago there was a storm in the middle of my trip. This year I chose 2 weeks later and I thought the storm season would be over.. Nope.. it waited for me and worse, when I am travelling solo.

There were a lot of coin lockers at Namba but they were all occupied so no choice I had to find Namba Free Hand Center to put my luggage. It is cheaper (500 yen) than the big locker (700 yen) but it was a challenge to find the place. Miraculously I was somehow able to find it without taking out my map lol: I just remember about finding a brown building Hotel Ichiei at exit 5. The weather was turning bad but I still managed to reach there without umbrella.

After that I just bought umbrella at the nearest shop for almost 700 yen. It was not the cheapest but desperate time called for desperate measure. I was then too hungry and ate carbonara at the nearest cafe after finding exit 25 for my airbnb later. As usual with my luck, it is at total opposite of exit 5 so later I had to walk that distance again.

With full stomach, it was time to travel to my first photo studio. It was near Nippombashi which is walkable from Namba. Given the bad weather, I just took subway. Again miraculously without map and with gut feel, I found the correct exit and the building. I saw the studio name but no door or lift to go to level 5. Suddenly I had an idea to try to the back of the building and there was the entrance.

I had mixed feeling about this photo studio online: the website looks great but the quality of the photos is kinda meh. But for 6000 yen and getting multiple costumes and up to 2 hour session, I just gave it a try. There 2 guys working there and I was the only customer. I have to admit that their customer service was fantastic. They kept saying things like "awesome", "great smile", etc albeit too much that it became quite awkward but it really made me more relaxed. They were very patient in helping to suit me up as well.

There are not a lot of choices for guys.. sad. I tried 3 costumes: normal kimono, Gintama's Gintoki, and Gintama's Shinsengumi. There were a lot of poses at several background but there was only 1 male kimono and that was why I picked Gintama next. I am not a fan of the series but the costumes are the closest to the samurai period. It was my first time cosplaying too lol. Gintoki's black top was too tight for me and I gave up on the wig halfway. I wanted 1 more clothes but they called it the end after 1.5 hours instead of 2 hours mentioned on the website.

Despite all the nice experience, the end product is ultimately what I am paying for and the end product is disappointing. There are 250+ photos but I had difficulty to even choose 2 to be printed. The quality is quite amateurish with poor lighting and bad positioning. Bleah not to mention that my face looked so fat and horrible. Sigh.. wasted to shower in the airport for this. My face looked damn fat and round in Gintoki's wig also. I take if as a money spent to experience cosplaying than photo studio.

It was not 3pm yet but I decided to go to the airbnb yet to make sure I don't lose my way when I had my luggage. The storm was getting worse and although I was happy that the apartment was ready, I could not turn on the aircon and the hot water. It was dreadful having to walk another round to take my luggage and then to return to the airbnb again. Bleah...

I took another shower before going for my second photoshoot. This was actually the reverse of the first one. I got a rather iffy feeling from its website although the photo samples are fantastic. The not so professional name "Japanese Cosplay" doesnt sound convincing too. The experience and the end product are amazing. 5000 yen for 1 costume and 10 shots and I did 2 sets. At the end of the session, the photographer asked me to take a look at the photos to see if there was anything I disliked and I wanted to repeat. She was so skillful that she paid attention to details e.g. angles, positioning of my body and the props and the costume, etc. I had fun playing with the swords (quite heavy to do the Nituryu) and bow and arrow. The quality is so great that I decided to have everything printed and the whole session cost me 19000 yen lol. I am even considering to have another costume on my last day in Osaka.

I then went to Mandarake Grandchaos and the first step in I already saw something to buy: Knight Heero and Angel Princess Relena SD Gundam figure. Luckily that was the only one. I could not find other things that I am hunting especially anime books. Sigh.. I ate dinner at the curry rice restaurant just next to airbnb, had a shower again and did my laundry. That marked my first day.

Honestly my first solo trip experience is not as scary as I was anticipating. I survived even the storm :) I think I will be quite confident for another solo trip... to Japan at least hahaha...