Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

My favourite-est day in Tokyo was when I got to go visit the Ghibli Museum. It was a pretty amazing experience. I’ve been enamoured with the work of Miyazaki ever since I saw, My Neighbour Totoro/A Tonari no Totoro, which to this day is my favourite. Thank you, Jules for getting the tickets!!!ย  Jules couldn’t join us though, she was in training ๐Ÿ˜‰ So it was just me and Erv. It was great to share it with another Miyazaki fan … although he’ll tell you that I’m the more otaku one. Needless to say, Erv was pretty much worn down by my enthusiasm … I was a little excited … to say the least.

fan girl moment

That’s me in my element and having a complete fan girl moment. This was even before we went into the museum proper where we saw storyboards, exposure sheets, 3D key frame models. We couldn’t take pictures in there and in a sense I’m glad because stills would not be able to capture the inspiration and awe that rises from your gut when you get to experience the process of producing some of the best animation works in the world. It woke my soul, which from the doldrums of everyday life suffers from narcolepsy.

erv on laputame on laputa

So if you know me, when I get excited I bounce around a little more than a bunny at Easter; and by the time we sat down at the Straw Hat Cafe, Erv was just happy to have a place to rest ๐Ÿ™‚ where we were served with Totoro cups *clap clap and dance of joy* Ok, I didn’t really do that … if I did, I think he would have swatted me on the head :p Even I know there’s so much bubbles one can take.

the cafeme and my teastrawberry shortcake

So we sat there, sipped our teas, chatted about great animation and how that burns the fire in our bellies. Discussed our fears, hopes and dreams and at 33, even though everything isn’t going perfectly as plan, we are doing just that dreaming big dreams, being scared as hell about them and hoping that for what it’s worth, the journey will be like a Miyazaki film. I’ll even be grateful for a couple of these magical moments in my lifetime and hey, I’ve been real lucky to have a few already ๐Ÿ™‚

my totoro

Call me idealistic and naive but I think my very own Totoro is out there for me … maybe I’m already on it and I just haven’t figured it out yet ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s the amazing thing about the Ghibli Museum, it wakes your soul and inspires you.

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Eating in Tokyo – Part Two

This holiday worked really well for me coz I got up early nearly every morning, had breakfast with Jules before planning a full day ahead of activities. So for breakfast, when you say coffee and toast, you don’t necessarily think of the Japanese but man, do they make a fine cheese toast and the creamiest strawberry coffee ever. Better yet, it was in a little cafe called Precious Coffee Moments, which was about a 5min walk from the Naka-Meguro station.

cheese toastcoffee

Cheesey toast … yummers ๐Ÿ™‚ This breakfast was so good, I had it twice too ๐Ÿ™‚ Except the second day, I had regular coffee with soy milk, which was as good as the one with strawberries. Mind you, this was actually strawberries and not just strawberry flavoured milk. I actually bit into pieces of strawberries while drinking my coffee. Speaking of strawberries, on the recommendation of yet another Nippon-phile, Shooshools I bought a punnet of strawberries on Easter morning and while waiting for Erv by the giant spider in Roponggi, I was happily munching away.

japanese strawberries

They are indeed as good as they look and cost me only S$2.80. Who says everything in Tokyo is expensive? By day04, I’m quickly learning that cost of living like most other things in life is all relative and with a set chicken rice costing about S$6 in Singapore, we aren’t that far off from Tokyo.

I digress, back to the area around Naka-Meguro station, across from the little cafe where we had breakfast, is a soba place, which I swear is a real Japanese restaurant.

sobayasai tempura

The menu had no pictures :p so thank goodness for Jules who knows the language and she ordered what I reckon is the best soba I’ve eaten … complete with yummy yasai tempura … heavenly … …

Hanami

That’s Japanese for flower watching, I guess they mean appreciating the Cherry Blossoms. As I mentioned Cherry Blossoms aren’t native to Japan but they sure have it everywhere and when you see them altogether it is truly quite quite beautiful. They’re early this year with March 22 as the official blossom date for Tokyo. So I got to watch it all happen. Jules has a sakura tree the minute she steps out of her house and it had already bloomed in full force when I arrived.

sakuras by julia's

When I saw this tree, I was like, “Oh wow!!” but the next few days showed me a thing or two about sakuras. I just wish my pictures spoke as much as the actual flowers did … oh well, nothing like the real thing, I guess.ย  While Jules was at her GABA seminar, Erv and I checked out Ueno Park, the place for hanami. It was a day before the official bloom date so there were lots of flowers still in their budding stage. Yet it was quite the sight already.

sakura and meueno parkerv capturing sakuras

So when Jules had time, we headed right back down and we didn’t regret it one bit.ย  Every bud had blossomed and it was just different shades of pink all over the place.

 

it's official

We even did the whole bento thing. So there we were lunching out of our bentos and if it wasn’t for the annoying crows and Japan has some huge crows, they’re like the size of chickens, anyway if it wasn’t for the crows, I would have had a much better time ๐Ÿ˜›

too much food
We bought too much food and ate ourselves silly
so it was nice to walk around the park after that ๐Ÿ™‚

us in ueno
That’s us before eating actually.

my fave pic of jules and erv
I like this pic I took of them ๐Ÿ™‚
Speaks about our 21st century, I say ๐Ÿ˜‰

jules and me
And I like this Erv took of me and Jules

erv and jules
This is such a happy picture of them, I like ๐Ÿ™‚

When we were walking and talking, we started discussing how come you don’t see a miniature version of the sakura, like a bonsai one where we can maybe keep at home to appreciate. Then when we left the park for Old Tokyo, we walked through are residential area and ta-dah, look what we found ๐Ÿ™‚

baby sakuras
So cute right, and so tempting to run with it
but the owners are smart … it’s chained down.

The other popular place to hanami is the Naka-Meguro area where these trees line a river. Earlier in the week, you could barely make out the pink but on my last night it was a sea of pink, even at night ๐Ÿ™‚

hanami by night

 

 

Eating in Tokyo – Part One

From snacks to meals to desserts, Tokyo truly is the place to be. I always thought Singapore was the place to try all kinds of food but the last week has taught me that the when it comes to food, the Japanese are about as adventurous as us, Singaporeans. In Tokyo, you can find Singaporean restaurants, Turkish, Mexican, French for sure and really good macrobiotic cuisine. Except for the last one, I really didn’t try any other cuisine in Japan, I figured while in Tokyo, I should just eat what the Japanese created ๐Ÿ™‚ So in Day01, after dropping off my stuff at Jules’ place we headed off to Harajuku for lunch.

by jules' place

That’s us walking out of her place, she stays around the corner, down the street behind us. I came to Tokyo with a list of vegetarian places to try out and one of them was Brown Rice Cafe, which turned out to be so yummy we had to bring Erv and Maki back there again on Day04 of my Tokyo adventures. Jules and I had the set lunch, a different one so we could pick off each other’s main. It comes with this aromatic mix of black sesame seeds, salt, seaweed and pepper that you put in with your brown rice. So yummilicious I’m going to try and make it at home.

brown rice philosophythe set

It tasted as good as it looked … ok ok, I can hear my Dad rolling over with laughter but I’m a vegetarian, so raw veggies look good to me :p More divine than the meal was their organic coffee, smooth and with soy milk it was to die for ๐Ÿ™‚ With that first meal, I was ready to rock and roll in Tokyo ๐Ÿ™‚ Who said eating vegetarian in Tokyo is tough? Even a simple purchase all by myself san Jules or Erv to translate for me, at a food hall in Tokyu turned out easier than I thought ๐Ÿ˜‰ I was trying to figure out if the inari was vegetarian:-

Me: sumimasen, eigo de daijyoubu desu ka? = Excuse me, do you speak English?
(looking earnestly at the auntie behind the counter and in the Japanese that Jules and Erv taught me the day before)

Auntie behind the counter smiles (actually she giggled a little) and shakes her head.

I look at my box of inari and at her.

Auntie behind the counter: Yasai = vegetables
(while she doesn’t speak English, she definitely reads minds)

Me: Yasai?

Auntie behind the counter nods and I’m happy to report it was pretty amazing inari from a regular food hall no less. It had bamboo shoots and mushroom in it, the first I’ve ever had with an inari ๐Ÿ™‚

Even a simple shio ramen with cabbage, spring onion and bean sprouts is good enough to shout home about. Here’s supper from Day01:-

ramen for supper

If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you how much of a noodle freak I am. I can eat noodles everyday, all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I was a happy camper in Tokyo, a very happy camper ๐Ÿ™‚

Back from Tokyo, Japan

I’m home and missing Tokyo already … technically missing Jules but yes, I do wish I was there for like 1 year … I’ll settle for 3 months teaching English or learning Japanese whichever I can get to do ๐Ÿ˜› I did fall in love with Tokyo, yet at the same time I’m grateful to be home … more than that I’m happier that I don’t have to slap on enough moisturiser to drown an elephant anymore ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank God for humidity!!!

in ginzastill ginzayes that's ginza too

I’m also very happy to report I did most of everything I had planned to do and as luck would have it, the sakuras came into full bloom while I was there. It was truly a sight to behold … that’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed to find out that Cherry Blossoms are not native to Japan. No siree, they’re apparently from China. Goes to show what good marketing and branding can do for you ๐Ÿ™‚

sakura

It is a real pretty flower, huh? So I found time to soak in the culture, enjoy some hanami (cherry blossom watching), shop a little, even ate some very yummy Japanese vegetarian food and of course, spend time hunting down enough Totoro products to keep me happy for a while. It was a great trip and was glad I got to share it with Jules and Erv … not quite sure how the two of them felt about babysitting me though ๐Ÿ˜›ย  Here’s a picture of us at the beginning of my adventures, last Friday.

jules, erv and me

This is just the beginning, will have the details once I sort through my 600 over pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

Off to Tokyo, Japan

After all the anticipation ๐Ÿ™‚ in less than 24 hours I’ll be on a plane and off to Tokyo, Japan. The plan is for me to explore Tokyo and give myself time to fall in love with the city. I do have a generic list of Must-See/Do:-

ยจ Ghibli Museum

ยจ Old Tokyo
Asakusa

ยจ Yasukuni Shrine
3-1-1 Kudan-kita
Station: Kudanshita (3 min.) or Ichigaya or Iidabashi (7 min.). On Yasukuni Dori
Shrine daily 24 hr.; Yushukan daily 9am-5:30pm

ยจ Ueno Park
Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan)
Oct-Mar Tues-Sun 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm); Apr-Sept Tues-Fri and Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm (Fri open to 8pm during special exhibitions)

ยจ Ginza โ€” Department stores, luxury brands

ยจ Kabuki Theatre
4-12-5 GINZA, CHUO-KU TOKYO
Ginza
Matinees 11:00a.m.-3:45p.m. Evening shows 4:30p.m.-9:00p.m.

ยจ Shibuya โ€” Teen fashion

ยจ Harajuku โ€” Street/teen fashion

ยจ Shinjuku โ€” Cameras, computers

ยจ Odaiba โ€” Shopping and entertainment on Tokyo Bay

ยจ Roppongi โ€” Nightlife area

ยจ Ebisu Garden Place – Pleasant shopping area

ยจ Daikanyama โ€” upmarket boutiques

ยจ Kokuritsu Nogakudo (National Noh Theater)
4-18-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
JR Tokyo Stn. / JR Chuo Line / 4-min. ride / Ochanomizu Stn. / JR Sobu Line / 12-min. ride / Sendagaya Stn. / 5-min. walk

ยจ Nakano Broadway

ยจ Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba

ยจ Takaosan

Wonder if there’s something I left out?

Anyway, check back in a couple of days and if I can get to a computer (because I’m leaving my laptop at home), I’ll be happily reporting from Tokyo ๐Ÿ™‚

Meanwhile, have a good long weekend and Happy Easter to all!!

Belated Birthday Wishes

I opened the mail box last week and found a snail mail from Japan ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a belated birthday card!! Better yet, it’s a pop-up card … it has to be from Japan, for sure. Cute, right? Thanks, Jules for the card!!

card from jules

I actually like belated wishes, gifts and cards ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s because I don’t think 24hours is enough to celebrate a birthday ๐Ÿ˜› So belated wishes makes your special day last that much longer.