Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Dragon Year 2012

CNY 2012

Wishing all my readers and friends

celebrating the Chinese New Year,

A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Dragon Year !

'Gong Xi Fa Cai '

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Land of the Rising Sun (Part 3)

Day 6 :
We are coming the the tail end of our trip to Japan. 
On Day 6, we visited Akihabara, the Electric Town, Mecca of Otaku, Center of pop culture of Japan.
We arrived by train (a 23 minutes train ride) and had a light breakfast upon arrival.

Onigiri with egg, noodle & bacon - Akihabara Assorted Onigiri - Akihabara
Had these pre-packed onigiri (おにぎり ) , omusubi or nigirimeshi … Japanese Rice Balls, for breakfast before we headed our to explore Akiba (Japanese way of referring to Akihabara).
Ching in Akihabara

This place is filled with hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers. You can find everything from the latest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk here. Dozens of stores specializing in anime, manga, figurines, retro video games, card games and other collectibles and maid cafes filled the spaces between the electronics retailers making Akiba the undisputed center of Japanese otaku and anime culture.

Howie won this for Ching
Ching's toys from Japan

Deciding which  type of Onigiri to eat

We saw this neat stall selling onigiri and decided to try the different types.

Onigiri with Salmon This one has salmon fillings.

We also found a takoyaki stall here.
Sang @ Takoyaki Stall, AkihabaraTokayaki with loads of Bonito flakes
Compared to the ones in Osaka, the Tokyo ones have bonito flakes.


We left Akiba at 4.30pm to avoid the peak hour rush.
In the evening, DH’s ex-colleagues (Japanese) invited us to a scrumptious dinner in Ninja, Akasaka
It was a very unique experience and great to meet the old friends.

The edible Shuriken Grissini

Creamy shrimp pudding, tofu style
26 Meat fried with cashew nuts and lots of dired chili @ Ninja, Akasaka
Chicken fired with cashew nuts and lots and lots of chili
27 Pasta Japanese style @ Ninja, Akasaka
Pasta Japanese style
29 Seasonal vegetable and seafood soup cooked on hot stones @ Ninja, Akasaka
Seasonal vegetable and seafood soup cooked over hot stones
31 Condiments @ Ninja, Akasaka
Condiments for the soup
32 Grilled Salmon @ Ninja, Akasaka
Grilled Salmon
Sweet and sour pork
35 Sushi and maitake tempura @ Ninja, Akasaka
Sushi and maitake tempura
@ Ninja, Akasaka.

Thanks to our Japanese friends for the wonderful evening and also the strawberries

Day 7 :

Kaji san (DH's good friend and ex-colleague) offered to show us around Tokyo before we depart for Kansai. After checking out from Hotel Fukudaya we had a typical Japanese breakfast of rice and egg.
A fresh egg is provided with steaming hot rice.
Pour beaten egg onto the rice and stir well.

 Shibuya 109, Meeting point
We met Kaji-san at Shibuya 109 (the popular meeting place in Shibuya).
We then boarded a train to Tokyo and left our luggage in the Station while we took a cruise along Tokyo Bay to Asakusa.
19 Kaji & Sang on Ferry - Tokyo Bay Cruise DH and his Japanese friend, Kaji San on board the ferry.
Tokyo Bay
39 @ Tokyo Bay
A family photo with the new Tokyo Tower (still under construction).
 48 - Asakusa
In Asakusa, we visited the Sensoji Temple.
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
Stalls along the walkway to Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
77 - Sembei, Asakusa, JapanThere were many food stall here and the crowd was still massive as the Japanese are still visiting the temples for the New Year prayers and blessings.
Sometaro, Famous Okonomiyaki Restaurant in Asakusa
For lunch, Kaji-san brought us to this famous Okonomiyaki Restaurant in Asakusa called Sometaro
There was a queue in front of this restaurant, waiting for it to open at 11 am.

Hong & Howie  in Sometaro, Asakusa
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. 

We sat at a table which is a hot plate and cook the Okonomiyaki by ourselves (of course with the instruction by the waitress).
Siew Mai Okonomiyaki @ Sometaro, Asakusa Making Okonomiyaki.

After lunch and a short walk around Asakusa, we took the subway back to Tokyo Station. Bid farewell to our Japanese friend and took the Shinkansen back to Osaka. We travelled all the way to Kansai International Airport to board the Rinku Town Shuttle to our Hotel.
Had a quick dinner at the vicinity after checking in and retired for a good rest.

Day 8 :
Our last day in Japan. 
After a good night rest, we woke up early, checked out of the Hotel and spent the rest of the day exploring the Hotel and Rinku Town.
 View of Rinku town from kansai Airport Washington Hotel View of Rinku Town from the Hotel (Kansai Airport Washington Hotel).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Street performance in Rinku Town.
Ching @ Fast Food Restaurant  Had fast food for breakfast.
Fast Food Breakfast @ Lotteria 
After breakfast, we shopped at the Premium Outlets in Rinku Town and had lunch in the Food Court.
Returned to the Hotel to wait for the Shuttle Bus to the airport.
21 - Waiting for the shuttle to kansai Airport 
While waiting for the arrival of the Shuttle Bus, I saw these very beautiful cabbage flowers at the entrance of the hotel.
Cabbage flower - purple  Cabbage  flowers 26 - Deco

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Finally, it was on board the shuttle bus to Kansai Airport….
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         and Sayonara, Japan.

It had been a great trip and hope we will get to do this again in future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Land of the Rising Sun (Part 2)

Day 4 :
We spent the morning of our 4th day in Japan, exploring Kyoto by foot.

Shinkyogoku shopping street located about 10 minutes walk from our hotel was a pleasant place to visit.
Lined with many food stores (selling local delicacies), we feasted our eyes and tummy with these….

..and had a hard time deciding what to eat..

 Finally, this is our breakfast or brunch

Apart from eateries, there were also lots of shops and shrines along the street.

   A Shinto Shrine

We returned to the Hotel before noon in time to check out. Had coffee in the Starbucks cafe located in the hotel before we journeyed on to Tokyo.

We boarded a Shinkasen from Kyoto all the way to Shibuya. A distance of over 500km. Unfortunately, we were not able to reserved seats as all the reserved seats were already snapped up. The train was jammed packed (due to the festive season… natives going back to the cities after the New Year holidays). We ended up having to stand almost all the way .. a journey of 2 1/2 hours.
It was dark by the time we arrive Shibuya Station. So we went straight to the hotel. Checked in, freshened up and off we go looking for food for dinner in Shibuya. One thing about the Japanese is, they love vending machines.
You select you meal and purchase the ticket for the food you want to consume using the vending machine.

Then you enter the restaurant and hand your ticket to the waiter/waitress.
See the small white ticket on the table…
.Get comfortable and serve yourself with some water (it’s complimentary)

Tadaa… dinner served.

Tempura Ebi with Gohan (rice)
Our simple Japanese dinner.

After dinner, we walked around Shibuya (the shopping &entertainment district in Tokyo).

The temperature that night was quite low and there were flurries as we walked back to the hotel.

Day 5 :
We booked into a ryokan  for a Japanese styled room with tatami mats that could accommodate the whole family during our stay in Tokyo. So for the 3 nights in Tokyo, this is was our sleeping arrangement….

 Hotel Fukudaya is a charming Japanese inn situated in the quiet neighbourhood of Shibuya.
 With the children in front of Hotel Fukudaya.
With DS1 at the Entrance of Hotel Fukudaya
  With DH in front of Hotel Fukudaya.

Since the hotel is within walking distance from the Shibuya train station, we took a walk there.
Planned to travel up north to Nagano Perfecture  for snow and hot spring.
While at the station, we noticed that we were late for our connecting train to Naganohara-kusatsuguchi.
At Shibuya Station – missing the intended train (for the first time)

Grabbing a bite at the Shinkansen Station in Omiya.

The journey of 170km took us almost 2 hours 40 minutes where we had to travel by Bullet train, Subway train, local express train and bus.
The sceneries along the way was amazing…

We finally arrived Kusatsu after 2 pm. Our initial plan was to experience the Kusatsu Onsen (Hot Spring). However, as we only have about 2 hours before we leave the place, we had to shelf the plan and instead just played around the station vicinity and have our lunch.
 DH & DS2 along the road at Kusatsu
DD playing snowball
DS1 with his snowball
DD & DS2 in Kusatsu

Coming from a tropical country, this is the children’s first time playing with snow. They had so much fun. Given a choice, they would have stayed longer here. However, since it is still a long journey back to Shibuya, we had to bid Kusatsu farewell by 4.30pm.
Arrived Shibuya after 7.30pm and stopped by at a restaurant for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
Stay tuned for the final part of our trip to Japan………..