The Odaiba Co-Incidence

Over the last weekend, I ended up spending the entire Sunday afternoon watching old Japanese dramas on youtube (until my eyes started to hurt from staring at the laptop screen :P). On another note, it does feel nice to finally watch a drama proper as I have not been doing so for the past 1/2 year at least (even to my own surprise).

Ended up randomly clicking on With Love – an old old Japanese drama way back from 1998!! This was also the very first J-Drama that I watched (starting from NUS Days) – to which I even bought a VCD Boxed Set from a NUS Bazaar (back then there was no youtube, PPS, PPTV etc.). This was also the drama that I found Yutaka Takenouchi so drop dead handsome, hee ……

And this was also the drama that begin for me a life-long love affair with Odaida. I have visited Odaiba for my last 2 Japan trips, and will probably do so again once my 3rd trip (planned for later year) is firmed up. Yes, not only Love Generation has filmed at Odaiba (at the beach next to the Marine Park) ….. With Love also boasts of scenes right at the iconic Statue of Liberty replica (this Statue is a recurring theme/prop throughout the series) and with the Rainbow Bridge right in the background. A small pity will be the unclear youtube resolution (hopefully PPS/PPTV has clearer videos) ……..

2015-06-18 12.23.11

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

Time to participate in another weekly photo challenge.

This week’s theme happened to fit in so well with the Day 9 entry I am currently writing. Just for a brief recap, left Odaiba and went to Kamakura next …… and did only 1 thing at Kamakura, which is to see the much talked about Giant Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu) up close!

More information extracted from Japan Guide:

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu) is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 13.35 meters, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara‘s Todaiji Temple.

The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open air.

——

The statue is also part of Japan’s listed National Treasure(s). Now for pictures of the actual Buddha ……

Processed with Moldiv

Actually went 1 round the Buddha statue itself and captured it from front …. left side view and right side view (the views give a different perspective of the statue when stiched together in 1 collage). As this is mainly a photography entry, I will leave the more descriptive stuff for Part 3 of my Day 9 entry (coming up!) instead.

The original daily post challenge can be found here

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Have not done up a weekly photo challenge for a while now (it has always been on my ‘t0-blog’ list though) …… so an entry to tick off 1 item on my ‘to-blog’ list that has been accumulating since end Februrary 🙂

Had this picture taken on my phone of this little boy sitting in the seat in front of me during my journey to Lake Kawaguchiko (Fuji Five Lakes). Completely spontaneous moment of this cute little boy looking out of the window …… which I spotted a reflection of himself. This gives the perspective that he is looking at his own reflection, although it may be otherwise 😛

 

20140325-192352.jpg

Japan 2013: Day 3 Hiroshima & Miyajima Part 1

DAY 3: SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER 2013

Day trip to Hiroshima & Miyajima Island via shinkansen from Shin-Osaka!

Early start to the day again as it is a 90min (i.e. 1 and 1/2 hour) shinkansen ride, not forgetting that I need to take 1 stop from Osaka to Shin-Osaka (where the shinkansen station is) as I have reserved a seat on the Sakura 549 departing Shin-Osaka at 0920 Hrs …..

Left hotel around 0830 Hrs (if I recall correctly) …… this is how Osaka Station City looks early in the morning.

P1020353

Managed to find a place to have a quick breakfast. Its Deli Cafe again, this time round another branch right in the middle of the station (near the South exit I think) …… After the lousy breakfast that I had on the train the day before, finally a proper one (well balanced with bread, salad, coffee) – all for 560 JPY only! Excellent deal indeed!

20131216-151726.jpg

Now I fully understand why breakfast is the most important meal of the day – from a health & mental viewpoint. It sets the tone for the day!

Reached Hiroshima around 1100 Hrs. Took some time to figure out where to go as the station exits are split into 2 sections – the bus station side and electric streetcar side i.e Hiroden. As always, the 1st thing to do when reaching a new place/city is to make a beeline for the tourist information counter for maps and directions ……

P1020360

Was planning to get a day pass for the electric tram/streetcar but the man who attended to me at the counter advised that I could just take the sight-seeing loop bus i.e the Hiroshima Meipu ru-pu – which is covered by the JR Pass! Since the bus comes in 1/2 hour intervals, and its just 15 min close to the next bus at 1130, decided to have an early lunch before heading to the Peace Memorial Park with quite a few attractions to cover.

Spotted the famous Takaki Bakery (recommended by a blogger) right across the other side of the station (the electric tram side) …. Crossed over and got myself a stick of their speciality – breadsticks with saussage. It was yummy! Also made a mental note to get some bread before the return trip back to Osaka ……

20131217-013122.jpg

Explored further and went down to level 1 of the station, and found a row of restaurants beside the souvenir shops for lunch. Decided to have Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki for lunch and managed to find a restaurant that serves exactly that, and which wasn’t too crowded as well (since its pretty early at 11-plus) ……

20131217-015855.jpg

The Osaka version of the okonomiyaki is usually more well-known. However unlike the Osaka version, the Hiroshima version differs in that the layers of the ingredients (batter, cabbage, pork, yaki soba noodles, seafood) are added separately in layers during the cooking process as versus to being mixed together. Of course, I ‘broke’ the layers and mixed them together and added the sweet sauce before devouring it :P. As mine was the house special (with seafood) – it was 1270 JPY. Despite the various celebrity endorsements (which means that restaurant can’t be that bad), however wasn’t that enthused about okonomiyaki after all …… Think it is a matter of personal tastebuds as I found the batter to be too omelette heavy (not a fan of omelette to begin with). Guess it is something good to try in a foreign country – but give me my ramen anytime anyday!

But still, it was a pretty big portion and filling lunch in preparation of the walking and sight-seeing later on. Finished lunch and caught the 1200 Hrs Loop Bus. 4 stops later (a very fast 10 to 15 min ride, smooth traffic all the way), I reached my destination – the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park!

P1020373

P1020374

Japan 2013: Day 1 Tokyo Foreword

Have never got down to finishing my travel blogs/entries for last year’s trip, and viola! Its time to start a new series of entries before year 2013 comes to a close! Heh!

My one and only trip for year 2013 (since I opted out of Hanoi Retreat), so had in my mind to be a holiday on my own terms. The original plan was to travel with N, but N only wanted to go Kansai region + some budget issues, so it didn’t work out in the end. Thus it became a solo holiday – my very 1st one in my entire 33 years of life! Definitely a nice experience to go back to Japan to do what I wanted to do as the last trip was too short and unfulfilled …… in my opinion that is.

October was a pretty busy month, thus didn’t manage to iron out / fine-tune my itinerary as much as I would liked. And because of some un-happiness at work,  I felt really restless and a slight tinge of regret that I should have just scheduled my trip to be in early November (instead of mid-November as planned) as 1) this was the time I really need to drop my work and get away from the office …… 2) I could’ve bought the SQ promo tickets that flew direct to Osaka with better timings as versus to starting and ending my trip in Tokyo (SQ blocked out mid November, only to sneakily launch another promotion later on in early October for the exact dates I wanted!).

Since the planning went slightly off-schedule, plus the fact that this was a solo trip, as I have told HX, decided to take it easy on the details and just go with the flow as the days go. Sometimes holidays are more enjoyable when things are less pre-planned and more spontaneous! Will find out so in the course of my 11 days trip 🙂

Before I go into Day 1 proper (with pictures), here’s a summary breakdown of my entire intinerary:

Day 1 14th November (Thurs) :  Red-eye Flight On Cathay Pacific To Tokyo Haneda (with transit at Hong Kong). Free & Easy In Tokyo

Day 2 15th November (Fri) :  Early Morning Shinkansen Into Osaka.

Day 3 16th November (Sat):  Day Trip To Hiroshima & Miyajima

Day 4 17th November (Sun):  1/2 Day Trip To Nara. More Sight-seeing In Osaka (Cover Minoo Park) or Head To South Kyoto

Day 5  18th November (Mon):  Kobe

Day 6  19th November (Tues):  Shinkansen Into Kyoto

Day 7  20th November (Wed):  Kyoto

Day 8  21st November (Thurs):  Kyoto.  Afternoon Shinkansen Back Into Tokyo (will arrive close to 1900 Hrs)

Day 9 22nd November (Fri):  Day Trip To Fuji Five Lakes (Mainly Lake Kawaguchiko). Evening Autumn Illumination At Rikugien Gardens

Day 10 23rd November (Sat):  Another Day Trip Out of Tokyo – Yokohama (Confirmed), Kamakura or Enoshima or Karuizawa or Gunma (Kusatsu or Ikaho Onsen). To Be Decided Whilst In Japan.

Day 11 24th November (Sun):  Tokyo. Mainly Shopping + Cover Areas Such As Odaiba, Ueno, Omotesando etc.

As mid to end November was the peak for autumn foliage (the main season I was targetting), started flights research as early as end June. Once I confirmed my flight in mid August (NATAS promo ticket from Cathay Pacific), the next task was to confirm hotels. Unlike most people who plan the draft itinerary 1st before booking hotels, I work the opposite manner. Prefer to book hotels first as it is in my character to want to ensure I have a clean toilet and bed at the end of a long day of travel. Its really early but being the peak season for autumn foliage, accomodations were pretty out maxed out especially for Kyoto.  Thus was really grateful the accomondation part worked out just fine in the end (more on that in the detailed day entries) ……

 

Drama Musings: 1st Half of 2013

Was browsing through my blog archives last week and realised a drama entry/update is way way overdue …… given that the last drama-related entry was in August 2012 …… and only a quick mention of the Japanese drama ‘Love Generation’ which I finished later on in year 2012 ……

Did a quick think through and realised that I really only watched ONE Korean drama in this half of 2013! Considering that I previously chased dramas up to korean live schedule (recall: ‘Bridal Mask’, ‘Fashion King’, ‘Nice Guy’ –  gave up halfway despite the good reviews) – ONE drama is paltry right? By the way, reading through complete episode synopsis on Dramabeans (via iPhone) does not count as drama-watching as it is more of wanting to know what happens at the end that’s all ……

‘Yawang/Queen of Ambition’ gets the honour of the sole Korean drama that I have watched from beginning to end in this 1st half of year 2013! Thinking aback now, what ‘pushed’ me to persist with this drama from beginning to end (24 episodes in total) is probably the fact that it was hardly recapped by the internet communityout there (notably Dramabeans) …… Whereas post ‘Bridal Mask’, I gave up on ‘Nice Guy’ (2012 KBS drama) half-way since there’s not much point carrying on watching something when the ending is all out there on Dramabeans …… while hearing great things about ‘School 2013’ (Lee Jong Suk is riding such a huge wave of success right now as I write this), never even get started given that all 16 episiode recaps were out there on Dramabeans as well 😛

However after my Japan trip in December 2012, I did start to watch Japanese dramas more intensively again 😛 ….. Re-watched ‘Nagareboshi’ (2010 drama starring Yutaka Takenouchi & Ueto Aya – gorgeous sceneries of Enoshima, will make it there one day!) …… ‘First Love’ (old 2002 drama that was on my to-watch list long ago and rediscovered again post-trip) ……

After getting my iPad, went through a movie marathon (mainly Leslie Cheung movies and some HK movies) before getting started on the newer Japanese dramas – namely ‘Last Cinderella’ from the Spring 2013 season, ‘Zenkai Girl’ from the Summer 2011 season and currently have on my iPad ‘Saikou no Rikon’ from the Winter 2013 season …… I guess one advantage of Japanese dramas is that they are shorter overall (average 45 min per episode and 10-11 episodes in total) which make for breezier pre-bedtime watching as versus to Korean dramas which tend to get a bit overwrought with makjang/dramatic historics and at times some plot drags as scripts and drama itself are completed almost on-the-fly/close to live broadcast …… ‘Yawang’ definitely was guilty of this plot drag and some pretty illogical writing towards the end despite the fact that Soo Ae did give a steaming performance as a villan-ness per se …… Also, with declining interest in all things Korean (KPop included), it may also explain why I am watching lesser Korean dramas these days ……

Also, at times, good ratings ≠ good/enjoyable drama. ‘Last Cinderella’ was a strong case in point. Despite doing well for Fuji Television after some middling ratings from the past few drama seasons, I for one think this drama was over-rated big time. Started on it intiitally based on great reviews from Couch Kimchi …… As I gradually caught up to live schedule (confirms that one is more interested in seeing through the drama till the end if on live schedule since there are no spoilers to fall back on + the excitement and suspense of knowing the ending makes things very compelling), started reading negative comments on plot pacing and script on Couch Kimchi as well. Chose to ignore it initially in order not to spoil my enjoyment of the drama …… but it was all painfully apparent and it was pretty much a torturous march towards the ending (episode 11). Responded by deleting all episodes on my iPad after finishing the series (to make room for better dramas) and sorry Miura Haruma fangirls – his acting is average at best!

Whereas ‘Zenkai Girl’  was much more enjoyable (in my opinion) despite the simple and ordinary plot. Where acting is concerned, it is competent with a lot of heart …… Despite reading quite a number of gossip articles depicting Ryo Nishikido as pretty much a douchebag in real life, at the bare minimum, this guy can act. And I like the fact that the heroine (Yui Aragaki) has her own journey of growth towards discovering what she truly values and wants out of her life. Check out the synopsis here courtesy of Koala’s Playground ……

Am on ‘Sakon no Rikou’ now after some very positive reviews at another drama blog – http://jdramas.wordpress.com/category/dramas/saikou-no-rikon/ ….. Another well regarded drama (acting and plot wise) despite average ratings when 1st shown. Will be ‘fairer’ to give my thoughts on it after finishing off the entire series ……..

So that sums up the ‘drama’ for 1st Half of 2013!

P/S: Before I forget, discovered this website which lists the filming locations of J-Dramas dating back to as early 90s. This is just wow!

Holiday Planning Update

After my last entry, and 1 week+ of research later (which sure felt like a long time) ….. This is my progress ……

20130703-020721.jpg

More or less covered in point form (based mainly on Japan Guide, JapanTourist websites + a few other travel blogs, TIME, CNN) the areas that I want to cover (Kansai Region) and some of the must-visit places (will trim it down eventually when coming to actual itinerary planning) …… As with Japan, mind-boggling array of rail and bus passes available for tourists, but will go into details on that when I plan detailed itinerary later on ……

With more or less a rough plan – 10 to 14 days, Kansai Region or Kansai-Tokyo (preferred option so that I have 2-3 days to do some side trips in Tokyo that I wasn’t able to do in the last trip), the next most important thing to do (rather than reading up more and more, over-researching in the process) is to secure plane tickets and map out a rough budget. This time round, with early planning, hope to secure promotional tickets at good prices (so that can stretch my money better for great food esp. Kobe Beef) …. So far no good rates for full service airlines yet so may be open to looking at AirAsia (read good reviews about the transit at KLUA, they currently have a promo till 7th July) …… Target to get this done by July/Early August!

Before I end off this video, a beautiful (sugoi) time lapse video courtesy of the official youtube of Kobe