Western Japan Trip – Part 2

Part 2 still has to do with Osaka. :)

These photos above were taken at Umeda – the other main shopping district, besides Namba area. Umeda also houses a load of train and subway stations – a maze of them so you can easily get lost there if you’re not familiar with the place. I’ve been there a few times, memorised the steps and areas whenever I went there, so this time when I went there alone, I didn’t get terribly lost.

I like Umeda for its mega shops like Uniqlo, The Loft, Hankyu, Kinokuniya, and the many many eating shops they offer. It’s about 5 stations from my hotel so a really easy and convenient place for me to visit – but I have to walk a lot when I’m there, no seats to sit anywhere.

The top left photo is a shot taken outside one of the indoor train stations – I cannot remember the name of it now. The top right photo is the mega mega Uniqlo store – all 4 storeys of it, and the 2 basement floors house Uniqlo’s cheaper brand GU. This is one store worth visiting.

The bottom photo was taken inside Maruzen, one of my favourite bookstores in Japan. This one was huge too – 3 floors (maybe 4) filled with books and magazines and other things. I love reading so I love this bookstore – just wish I could read Japanese. Couldn’t find any English books there though. Infact I could only find English books in Kinokuniya bookstores in Japan.

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I took this photo to remind myself that you don’t need to eat expensive food in Japan, the cheap food also tastes amazing. This above was my lunch on that day when I was alone shopping in Osaka. 2 of my favourite drinks were in order, plus my favourite tuna onigiri, and that GIANT chocolate ice-cream which I was dying to try out after seeing a friend’s post on his Instagram eating it. That ice-cream is to die for – I think I ate more than 5 of it during this trip alone. Bought the drinks, onigiri, and ice-cream from the Japanese kombini or convenient store called Family Mart, which was located just across the street from my hotel. Infact, there are more than 5 convenient stores located around my hotel – so you’ll never get hungry, even in the middle of the night. How cool is that?

Speaking of the middle of the night – I have to say I’ve never been afraid of walking on the streets in Japan late at night. My late at night is around 10plus, and I’ve walked on the streets ALONE at that timing, and I felt safe. I don’t know why, but I just felt really safe. I don’t feel that safe now walking on the streets in the middle of the night here in Singapore.

This above was what I ate A LOT when I was in Osaka – beef rice from Yoshinoya. The Yoshinoya in Singapore is NOTHING compared to the ones in Japan. The menus are different, the beef is different, and the atmosphere is different – everything is different, and SO MUCH better in Japan. And one big thing to note – the food is not only very tasty, the food is also VERY CHEAP. And super fast – in most cases faster than the food I get served in McDonalds! I kid you not. You order one minute, turn around to maybe look at the door, and when you turn back, your food is infront of you – it’s that fast, I’m not exaggerating – especially their basic beef bowls (pic on the right). And you will get hot tea of cold water – unlimited supply – for free. I love the Yoshinoya in Japan – cheap and super good.

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I also ate quite a bit of tempura during this trip – one of which was at this shop at the basement shopping mall in Uneda. Just look at the prices – so cheap! You’ll have to pay 2 to 3 times that amount to have tempura here in Singapore. The bowl also came with a free drink, and Japanese radish and pickles. I absolutely love Japanese radishes. The tempura is cooked right infront of  you as this shop had its eating tables surrounding the cooking area. Love small shops like this one where you can find amazing food.

Suffice to say that everything you eat in Japan, no matter where it is – in an expensive restaurant or a small shop like this one, or a fast food shop like Yoshinoya, or onigiri from the convenient store – the Japanese food will never let you down.

That’s if for part 2. :)

 

 

 

 

 

Western Japan 2015 – Part 1

Pardon me while I blow off the dust and cobwebs that has accumulated here on my blog. Once again I have neglected this blog BIG TIME – so sorry about that.

BUT!

I am back. :)

And I would like to start off by writing about the recent 19-day trip I had with my family, where we toured some of the prefectures in western Japan. I have had a number of friends asking lots of questions about this trip, so I thought I’d share some of the experiences here on the blog.

The Western Japan trip was our 3rd driving/road trip we did so far – the 1st one was done in 2013 where we drove around Kyushu while making our base in Fukuoka. The 2nd one was done in 2014 where we drove around the central part of Japan, making our base in Nagoya (but we also stayed for 2 nights in Kanazawa).

However, for the 2015 western japan trip, we didn’t make our base anywhere, we decided to move and stay in hotels in the prefectures we visited. So we stayed in hotels in Osaka, Kyoto, Shikoku, Hiroshima and Okayama. We booked our hotels via Booking.com, and our car was rented at the Times Rental, which was about 10mins walk from our Osaka hotel. This was our first time renting at Times Rental – the past 2 times we rented at Nissan Rental. Both are the same in terms of service. The cars they have differ a little, but the prices differ quite a bit – so we decided to try Times Rental which was cheaper for us.

I took more than 3 months to do the research for this trip. I read up on travel books, travel magazines and Japan travel websites. The travel magazines I had were taken free from shopping malls such as Takashimaya and Liang Court. I also dropped by the JNTO office at Shenton Way a few times to get brochures. Each time I visited there were new brochures so that was good. And the brochures came in very handy for me so I suggest you visit your local JNTO for brochures if possible.

We didn’t drive much when we were staying in Osaka as it was easier to take the subway and trains.

Firstly, we visited the Universal Studios (for the umpteenth time) again – that place is a must for the kids, but not for me – I have since gotten terrified of the rides now, so when hubs and the kids went there, I did my own shopping and sightseeing in Osaka.

This was one of the places I visited on my own. It’s called Shinsekai – an old neighbourhood located south of Osaka. It’s known for that tower called Tsutenkaku, which is not very tall but the whole area surrounding the tower is interesting – it’s like stepping back in time to the 70s – that’s why it’s called Osaka’s retro town. I was shopping at Tennoji’s new shopping mall called Abeno-Q when I decided to drop by Shinsekai since I had some time to kill. After asking for directions (and I was pleasantly surprised the people around there could speak fluent English!), I managed to find my way there – walking through Tennoji Park. So all in all it was about a 10 to 15min walk from Tennoji Station to Shinsekai – walking amidst lush greenery, and I also walked past Tennoji Zoo! Imagine a zoo in the middle of the city. :)

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Oh – I have to mention this. This shop above is called ABC Craft Shop. It’s huge, very huge. And it’s located in Abeno Q Mall in Tennoji. If you are into crafting and everything handmade – this is THE shop to go to. It has everything – from fabrics to wool to paper to flowers to wood to I don’t know what else as they have just about everything! The Japanese are really into this – I was there twice and both times it was packed with ladies (especially), and there were little classes/workshops everywhere inside the shop – so nice I tell ya.

And Abeno Q Mall also houses one of the largest Uniqlo stores I have seen (the mega one is at Umeda) by far. And Tokyu Hands is also inside the mall, but it’s not that big.

There are other malls in Tennoji, all within walking distance from Tennoji Station – including LOFT (which is quite big), and MUJI (which is also quite big). :)

Getting to Tennoji wasn’t difficult for me as I feel the train system in Osaka is more comprehensible than that of Tokyo – more straightforward, and now there are English words on the maps at the train stations – you just have to search for these English maps – they are there but you need to be alert and look out for them. Figuring out the machines to purchase the train tickets isn’t tough either as there are English instructions available, so don’t be afraid to try – if I can do it on my own, so can you. :)

Another place that we visited without the use of the car was this place:

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The Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum, located north of Osaka. We took the train there. This museum is situated in a quiet suburb called Ikeda. Using google maps, we managed to find the place quite easily. As we went there sometime in the early afternoon, it was already quite crowded but the queue (to have your very own instant ramen cup) moved fast, and it was quite fun and a unique experience to see how instant noodles are made. Admission is free but to have your own cup noodles, you have to pay a small fee. And you can eat it there if you want. If not, they provide a bubble bag for you to bring home. Sweet!

And that’s it for Part 1 of my japan trip 2015. :)

Trying To Start Again

It’s terrible isn’t it? First I’m back, then I’m not, then I am again, then I’m not again. It’s like a yoyo I’m going through with this blog, and with my life.

This year – 2015, hasn’t been a great year so far – and it’s nearing the end of June already – this year really flew by.

So many tragic events took place this year – the crash of an Air Asia plane in early Jan (actually it was late December 2014), another crash by a german plane – this time it was because the co-pilot wanted to take his own life, and that of everyone on that plane. It’s a case of bad luck for those people onboard, isn’t it? Good grief.

Then there was this sinking of the ferry carrying more than 400 people, mainly elderly people from China – almost all died. And before that was the earthquake in Sabah, that killed a number of people, including 2 teachers and 7 primary 6 students from Tanjong Katong Primary School. That one really pained my heart. I cannot imagine what the parents of these children are going through now, I cannot imagine what the principal of that school is going through, and I cannot imagine what these 7 students were going through seconds before they knew (or didn’t know) that they were going to die. They were only 12 years old – so so painful to think of this.

And in march was Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing – that one made me sob every single day during the mourning period of 7 days.

AND.

I saw a dead body. Enough said on that.

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I have not been crafting much this year. I made a decision in the latter part of last year, to stop accepting sewing orders from then till maybe the end of this year. This is so that I can concentrate more on Ethan and his studies.

But with that stopped, I have not had much luck in selling my existing sewing projects. Basically people prefer to buy their items custom made, rather than items I have made. I can understand that, though I wish it weren’t the case. There are people who embrace custom orders as these orders challenge us to make things that are not in our comfort zone.

But for me, I am lousy at coping with things not within my comfort zone, therefore all these years, I have not been able to be totally relaxed with custom orders, infact, they stress me out no end. In the end, I find sewing very stressful and not fun at all, something which I didn’t forsee will happen.

I have since not sewn much this year, except for the month of march where I had this sudden urge to sew, after seeing a video on quilts.

But the urge died down soon after, and I have not been sewing since.

I was also in crocheting from last November till april – kept crocheting and crocheting non-stop – I just couldn’t stop. But I did stop – for 2 months already. So fickle I am right? I cannot stand myself sometimes.

What hasn’t really died down is scrapbooking and papercrafting. And it looks like it’s here to stay for a while at least, as I am now interested in projecting life-ing on a weekly basis, scrapbooking my trips – still, making paper related gifts for people, and making cards. I also hope (for the past 8 years actually) that one day I will be noticed by an American scrapbook company who will want me on their design team. With that in mind, I am trying to polish up my scrapping, cardmaking etc.

I started loving scrapbooking in June 2005, and I am STILL doing it today, though not as fervently as before, and my style has evolved over the years, BUT I still love this hobby – amazing right? There was a time when I thought otherwise, but I am very wrong, obviously.

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I am very active on Instagram (@somersetdevon), less on facebook (I mainly post images of my work) now. As for this blog – I am going to try to keep it alive. :)

Thanks for sticking around – am very grateful. Hope I will be back soon. Do I sound hopeful? :)

My Memories of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

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(I love this photo above – Mr Lee looked very handsome here. This is how I want to remember him by.)

I have been wanting to write a blog post on Mr Lee Kuan Yew, but I couldn’t get myself to do it without crying.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away on the 23rd of March 2015 at 3;15am or thereabouts. It was a Monday morning. Prior to that he was seriously ill with severe pneumonia for quite sometime and was hospitalised at SGH since feb 3rd or 4th.

He has been ill on and off for a few years now – and these illnesses were always reported in the news, and at the end of the day, he will always be well again and would return to his home.

But this time round, I could sense (from the news coverage) that his pneumonia was a very serious one. And I know when the elderly contract severe pneumonia, it almost always means they are going to die soon.

I was hoping against hope that he will live and survive through this pneumonia. On sunday morning, the day before he died, it was reported that he turned for the worse. My heart dropped. I continued to say a silent prayer, that he will pull through.

Then on Monday morning when I woke up at 530am and checked my facebook page – I saw the news – I closed my eyes – I couldn’t believe it – Mr Lee had really passed away – something that I have been dreading for more than 2 years since I saw photos of his frail frame.

I didn’t cry at first – just woke the kids up, got them ready for school and all…. It was after that, when I settled down, ate my breakfast and watched tv – that was when I saw images of Mr Lee flashed on tv – I started to cry.

Today is Friday – it’s been 5 days, and I have not stopped crying. I am actually shocked at my own reaction. I wrote on my facebook page on Monday, that I felt I had lost my own grandfather. It still feels that way today – and I totally didn’t expect this in me. I feel an immense sense of loss, of emptiness, of sorrow, and I also feel insecure now.

Prior to Mr Lee’s death, I didn’t know much about what he did for Singapore. I was born in 1969 in Malaysia, came to Singapore a couple of years later – my sister was born here in 1972. By the time I came to Singapore, Mr Lee was already the prime minister, but I know he was still trying to build Singapore, one step at a time. How I know? It’s because of my own father.

My dad liked, and still likes I believe – to watch Mr Lee’s national day rally speeches when they were telecast on tv. My dad basically liked to watch all of Mr Lee’s speeches, including those he would tirelessly make during voting campaigns.

During voting campaigns I used to watch a few of his speeches on tv when my dad was watching them – and I used to wonder why it was only Mr Lee who was speaking, while the rest of the cabinet members just sat behind him, crossed-legged and staring at the crowd. And I used to look at the crowd – everyone, and I mean everyone – was listening attentively to Mr Lee. Nobody’s eyes were looking elsewhere, nobody even yawned. Maybe they daren’t. Since young I knew Mr Lee was a very strict man – he reminded me of my mother in many ways. And despite me resenting my mum’s strict ways of disciplining me, I felt Mr Lee’s strict and disciplined ways of governing the country, was the right way to go. To govern a country you need to have strict laws put in place – it cannot be “ok” here and “anything can” there – things will never get done nor get improved in this way. That was how I felt – and I was in my early teens then.

There are a few things that he did which I thought (back then when I was a teen) were good things, good laws – “saviour” kind of laws – you know what I mean?

One of them was the ban of chewing gum. When he implemented that – I was so happy I tell you. I have gotten gum on my shoes, my clothes, even my hair. I had to literally watch where I stepped, where I sat, and not to walk under any buildings as that was how I got gum on my hair. Many people complained about this law, but I was one of the few who applauded it.

Singapore being so clean and green was another initiative by Mr Lee, and I will always be grateful he made Singapore into a garden city – or rather a city in a garden. It’s the first thing visitors will remark when they visit Singapore – “such a beautiful city!” And I always feel proud whenever I hear that.

The cleaning of the Singapore river was another good one, though I thought he won’t be able to do it as the river was really extremely filthy. But he did it. Amazing.

Singapore Airlines, Changi Airport, HDB flats – these were all done by him and his team of ministers.

This is so difficult to write – I just feel so down now – it’s like I lost someone dear to me. I will continue again another day.

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21 March 2015

Its saturday, cloudy and hazy. Sean has left to study with friends. I wish i could leave the house too but im still feeling weak.

Today is another one of those oh-so-frequent days where i wonder why i am alive and what am i living for. I am very depressed, frustrated and angry with myself for choosing this path of my life.
I have decided, for now that is, to just live for my kids and make things to give to people who appreciate me, which sadly arent many, but i feel i hve done my best to be a good person to everyone i know.

I pray i dont hve to suffer too long, i wish i knew what god has planned for me coz i am just at a loss now, have been for many years already.

20 March 2015

Its friday, hot and hazy and my 5th day feeling very sick. Hve been sick with cough, flu, sore throat and fever since monday which was the start of the school hols, thank goodness for that. So i did pretty much nothing during these past 5 days, quite a waste of time but i guess i needed to take it slow. Caught it from ethan who was sick the week before.

Today is ethan’s birthday, he turns 12, which means i have been taking care of him full time for 10 years already – 10 years!! He was only 2 when i quit my job to stay at home. He couldnt really walk then, couldnt utter a word and was still drinking milk and wearing pampers.

Now he is 12, cannot stop talking, and will be sitting for his psle exams soon. Oh how i wish to go back to 10 years ago!! :)

Rurouni Kenshin The Movie

Just a very short post saying I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS MOVIE!! It’s a trilogy, and all 3 parts are very good, especially part 3 where there were a lot fighting scenes. I caught all 3 parts while onboard my flight to Osaka in November 2014. Watched them again on my flight back home from Osaka – that’s how good they all were.

And I hope to watch them again. Takeru Seto – the lead actor who played the role of Himura Kenshin, was absolutely awesome in this movie.