Thursday, December 24, 2009


A few days ago, at the Tokorozawa HC, we were having a short discussion about the Nativity. Yoshitaka-san was leading it, and one thing that all of us noticed about the birth of Christ was how sad/pitiful/difficult it was for Mary and Joseph.

Everyone: murmur (about how sad it was)
Yoshitaka: So you all noticed it was quite difficult for Mary and Joseph.
Hideko: Yes, they had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. It was quite far.
Emiko: And by that time, Joseph and Mary had to endure the stigma of her being pregnant before getting married.
Me: And also they had to stay in the stable when they got to Bethlehem.
Yoshitaka: Do you know why all this happened? Do you know why it was so terrible for them that first night?
Yoshiko: Because Joseph didn't make a room reservation in Bethlehem!
Everyone: *stunned*

Yoshitaka's point was that even when Jesus was born, the forces of darkness were already working to cause problems, even though Yoshiko's joke kinda threw us off track for a bit.

My family came up on Monday to go and visit Japan. First time they've been here, and it's been a little bit hard for my Dad because:
  1. Some of the best food is raw.
  2. Some of the best food has mushrooms.
  3. My mom and sis are experts at shopping.
It has been pretty fun going around doing stuff with them (Disneyland, meeting old friends, going shopping), but I think perhaps I have done a bit too much fun, especially since there's more fun (Hakone, Kyoto) coming up, so I have to stay at home and do work tomorrow. Which can be a bit of a bummer, but is actually very much like what most of my Japanese friends have to do, since Christmas isn't a public holiday here. (Though the 23rd of Dec is, since it's the Emperor's birthday).

Anyway, around this time of the year, many people have what is called a Bōnenkai (忘年会), where they would have lots of drinks, and forget the worries and bad stuff of the past year. But the KHCN people decided to have a Christmas party, which instead of a Bōnenkai, would be a Kinenkai (記念会), where we would look back on the year and remember what we can give thanks to God for.

I can thank God for the friends I've made in Japan, for the friends I've met in Japan, for colleagues who are friends, for a church that has supported me, for a family that supports me.

But most of all, I can thank God for being a God who loves me so much that His arm always protects me, even when I'm not a good Christian.

So yeah, that's about it.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I'm not sure when it started, but I've always had a bit of a fear of heights, or more specifically, a fear of falling. You can just about imagine what happened last time when I had to do rappelling in BB and the army, as well as that High Confidence Course (it was high, but it didn't help very much with my confidence) in Hendon Camp.

Oh yes, I remember that Hendon Camp experience. The one that affected (traumatized) me the most was the one where we had to jump off a platform and grab a trapeze-like bar which was suspended about 5 meters above the water. And then, when the instructor said "Now!", you had to let go.

This of course, explains why:

1) I was terrified while traveling to the top of the Umeda Sky Tower in Osaka,

Consider the trauma I went through for this picture!!!

2) I only did those high jetty jumps at Telunas under tremendous peer pressure,

It was peer pressure! I didn't want to look like a wuss! Even though... even though now I guess everyone know's I'm a wuss.

3) I don't like taking roller coasters.

There's a valid reason why I don't like sitting in that orange thing as it starts dropping.

(Un)fortunately for me, when Teresa came up from Singapore, I agreed to meet her and do some stuff with her. As it turned out, due to her tour's timetable, that 'stuff' was to 'take rides at Disneyland cos her aunt wasn't keen on taking rides'. Yeah, those rides. Not the riverboat or the tour tram. The kind with screaming and high drops.

So when I met Teresa (with her aunt), she said she wanted to take those with the triangle marks next to the names. Obviously, those triangle marks meant "DANGER!!" or something along those lines. It didn't deter her one bit, though I tried to suggest taking something a little more peaceful, somewhat along these lines:

Me: Hmm triangle signs? So I guess those must be the fast ones huh.
T: Yeah!
Me: The kind your aunt doesn't want to take huh.
T: Yeah!
Me: Ahh I see... hmm that paddleboat on the river looks pretty nice...
T: I took it already. It was sooooo boring.
Me: Right.
T: Who knows, maybe you've already conquered your fear of roller coasters!
Me: Or maybe I'll wake up screaming at night because I've been dreaming of falling.

She did give me one piece of advice as the Splash Mountain ride started. She was all calm and stuff. I was trying to act calm.

T: I hope this ride was worth the wait!
Me: You should be grateful that I'm putting myself through this.
T: Oh it's not that bad. What you should do is take a deep breath as you get to the top, and then exhale on the way down.
Me: You mean scream.
T: No, exhale.

And guess what, it worked. Of course there was a rush of adrenaline and stuff (I was still jittery when we got off the ride), but I think I don't mind taking roller coasters quite as much as I did before.

So thanks Teresa, you helped me overcome my fear of small-to-medium-sized roller coasters. I'm just glad you didn't have enough time to go to Korakuen and see the big coaster at Tokyo Dome City.

It'll take a lot more convincing for me to get on that.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Ode to my coat

This morning I took a look outside
And thought "I think it'll be alright,
I'll really rather travel light"
And did not bring my coat.

The morning train was quite a squeeze
But 'cos of that I did not freeze
I really did feel quite at ease
That I didn't bring my coat.

I traveled somewhat further north,
And boldly, outside, ventured forth
And really did not think much of
The absence of my coat.

But then the skies began to frown
And lo, the rain began to pound
The temperature dropped way, way down
I wish I'd brought my coat.

So now I huddle in the train
And though protected from the rain
The thought of cold still brings me pain
I should have brought my coat.

So I went up to Tsuchiura last Thursday, and I'm not kidding, I was wearing only my Puma jacket, which is useful for springtime and church services, but not really for late autumn-early winter times. So even though most of the stuff happened indoors/traveling in car with heater, I still could feel the chill, especially when it started to rain around midday.

The temperature has really dropped, and as I have observed to my friends, growing up in Singapore prepares you for the summers here, but not for the winters at all. Fortunately, I have a kotatsu (from Shu and Ten), an electric blanket (inherited from Louis and Chris), an aircon with a heater (in the house) and an ofuro (which is really useful).

Oh and speaking of Louis and Chris, this happened on a skype conversation, when they were trying to get me to use the electric blanket.

Louis: *random stuff*
Me: *random stuff*
Auntie Chris: (in background) Has Daniel found the electric blanket yet?
L: Eh, Daniel, have you found the electric blanket yet?
Me: Yeah I found it, but I'm leaving it in the living room for Justin (Louis' son, coming to visit soon)
L: Eh you should use it lah, don't you feel cold?
Me: Yeah, a bit, but I use the heater in my room.
L: Eh, you shouldn't do that you know. Heater is expensive ok...
Me: Ohhhh... I see...
C: (in background) Don't tell him that! Later he won't use the heater and then he'll freeze to death.


So anyway, the team from WEFC came up already, and they've already done one kids' event last Saturday. Thank God that
  1. Quite a few kids came, even though it was raining
  2. Two dads came, since usually only moms turn up
  3. The event was stretched for an extra hour, but the team still had stuff up their sleeves to keep with it
  4. The afore-mentioned rain only started after the team had reached the building, since we had to walk from the station (quite far) while carrying all the barang (quite a lot)
  5. One of the dads, Kenji, drove us to the station after the event was over.
I think most of us had a good time then, playing with the kids and getting to know them. Do continue to pray for the team as they will be doing lots of things this whole week, and will have to meet the kids again on Friday.

Ok, so that's about it for now.


Monday, November 30, 2009


A few months ago, when I had just been in Japan for about a month or so, my baby sister told me a dream she said she had had.

In the dream, I had returned home, and suddenly appeared in front of her, and she felt so happy that I was back, but then, she woke up, and realized it was a dream, and felt sad.

So naturally of course, I filed that story in my mind, and when I was preparing to go back for a short while, I decided to try to do it. But I didn't want to just stop at my sister. I wanted to prank my parents too. I would've thought of pranking my brother too, but it's more fun to rope him in and prank others.

I touched down on 20th November and managed to sneak my way into the house relatively undetected. My parents were suspecting I would be returning soon, but I had very cleverly avoided talking to them on Skype and not answering their questions about my flight details, so they did not know when I would really be back. Brother let me in, and I managed to get to my room without anyone realizing.

Unfortunately, while waiting for my dad to go and sleep so that I could go shower and sleep, some twit started calling my home phone. The twit would call, and when someone answered, he (or she) wouldn't say anything. Which of course, woke my dad up. And despite my brother's best efforts to keep him out of the room and in the dark, my dad found me hiding behind the door.

Oh and my grandma detected my presence the next morning because she spotted some abnormalities in the shower room. I bet she was like a counter-intelligence operative or detective when she was younger.

When I was trying to survive in Tokyo with the at-times-8-degrees-weather, I would think that I was more used to hot, humid, tropical weather. Once I got back to Singapore, I realized that being used to it didn't make me any more immune to disliking feeling sticky all the time. And now, what my brother calls 'cooling weather' is still too hot by my standards. But still better than shivering.

So anyway, I went back mainly for Josh & Aggie's wedding, which was on 28th Nov. The Tuesday before the wedding, Josh suddenly asked me to be one of the 'brothers' to help him gate-crash Aggie's place in the morning. Fortunately, most of Aggie's sisters were nice people, so the things we had to do weren't too terrible. At least, from my perspective. Probably not the same view for Jiehuai, Chai and Josh.

I guess the wedding felt somewhat different, maybe cos it was on Sentosa instead of in church, but also because it just seemed strange to see two people you have grown up with exchanging their wedding vows at the front of the hall.

I guess this means that next time I want to ask Aggie out for lunch, I'm really gonna have to ask Josh for permission first haha.

Also got the chance to meet up with several other important friends (there were lots of other important friends I didn't get to meet up with, so sorry), and settle some other important matters (saving the world vicariously through CoH, submitting PR documents).

Was rushing around quite a bit, doing stuff, meeting people, playing games, and it felt so packed. I wasn't even able to have like proper QT most days, and at the back of my mind, I kept on thinking how I wasn't getting rest.

But when I read Sul's message "...hope you had a good rest...", I realized that actually, I was feeling quite refreshed and all. Even though I was trying to reconcile having to re-adjust to being back in Japan after sort of adjusting to being in Singapore.

And well, hopefully this will help last till I finish off my term in April-ish.


P.S. New official couple in church. And looks like they may not be the only ones.... haha...

P.P.S. Some people still think 31st Nov is real.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dear America,

I'm an American citizen, but I've grown up in Singapore. And I would like to mention something with regard to your foreign policy.

Please stop telling the rest of the world to do what you think is best.

Please stop telling us that we are undemocratic.

Please stop telling us to stop censorship.

I think censorship is necessary, as I think it is a lesser evil than rampant liberality.

I feel that having a strong, one-party government makes our country more stable and flexible than having a president who is handicapped by politicians whose interests lie almost as much in altruism as in selfish gain.

I do not want your style of society, where people criticize others in a chaotic, tabloid-style manner, and where you can sue a fast food company because you got fat eating their food.

We may not be perfect, and sometimes, we may have a lack of 'human rights' (both real and imagined) but let's face it, no one is, not even you. And we don't tell you what we think you should do to your country.

We appreciate the concern you are trying to show the rest of the world, by showing us how America got to how it is. But in case you have not noticed, we are not America.

We are different from you. We have our own cultures.

You are not us, so how would you know it'll be good for us?

So thank you very much, but please, stop telling us to become more like you.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Today was a cold and rainy day. Cold as in 15 degrees cold. Rainy as in there was a bit of a drizzle, you know, the kind that makes you feel depressed. The skies were overcast, and it was kinda gray.

So of course, when Steve and I went to E-moms, and only Miyako turned up (with Au-chan of course), Steve felt kinda bummed out. It didn't help that he had been psyching himself up for today's English conversation, since he was planning on using the idea of Thanksgiving (the holiday) to talk with the ladies, and to try and give a Christian-based view on the meaning of that day.

After the E-moms, we were supposed to go with Miyako to her place to plan for kids' club stuff, but since there were so few people, Miyako suggested we just go over to her place. It would also be a lot easier to distract Au-chan in her home than at the community center.

It was true that Au-chan was a lot less noisy at home than at the community center, especially after Miyako put on a video for her to watch. Then Steve got down to discussing Kids' Club stuff with Miyako while I ended up taking care of Au-chan.

And after the discussion was over, Steve asked Miyako if she was interested in doing the study he had prepared for E-moms that day, since Au-chan wasn't disturbing them, so Steve managed to talk to her about Thanksgiving and about how we can be thankful to God and stuff (I didn't really hear what went on during the lesson), but at the end of it, Steve realized that even though E-moms had more or less been canned, he had the opportunity to really share with Miyako.

So in the end, he was happy.

And I was happy cos I got to meet Mel in the evening.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Looking through the news this morning, I read this sports article about a Saudi striker who scored just about off the first touch, 2 seconds into the game.

Talk about shades of Shaolin Soccer...


Thursday, October 08, 2009


I was looking around the net to check on updates on the typhoon and stuff, when I came across this piece of news abour some not-so-smart pirates operating near Somalia.

I don't know why, but I found it absolutely hilarious. It kinda reminded me of the time the two robbers from Malaysia tried to escape by boat to an island around the area, but happened to disembark on the worst possible island they could have, by going ashore on Tekong.

I can almost imagine the "oh shit" feeling the pirates must have felt when they realized the boat was not a tasty cargo vessel, but a fully armed warship.



So right now, Tokorozawa is starting to feel the effects of a typhoon that's bearing down on Honshu, I think. Nothing too drastic yet, just the advance rains I guess. The train companies have started to take notice and to issue notice as well.

If you look close enough, you'll notice it says 'Typhoon' in the right most column. And it wasn't just the Kawagoe Line which was issuing the notice. The Saikyo Line, the Yokosuka Line, the Utsunomiya Line, and a whole bunch of other lines were also sending out notices.

In fact, I just heard a police car going by, I'm guessing they're saying something like "please stay indoors" or something like that. Quite rare for people to go around making announcements at 3 AM in the morning.

Anyway, E-mums, which was supposed to be on later on, has been canceled. And according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Saitama's gonna get hit by storms, causing heavy rain and potential flooding. Still not as bad as Kanagawa Prefecture though. They're getting hit harder. And I'm not even looking at the Chūbu region. Read somewhere on the news that even the Toyota factory in Nagoya will remain closed today on orders of their top brass.

Anyway, some updates before I start losing consciousness. It has been getting colder (even without the typhoon), and it is more or less autumn already. According to good friend Shion, you know it's Autumn when you have to wear your tie to work. Ties are not necessary in summer due to the heat. Kinda hard to imagine that summer's over already.

Outreach at Waseda has technically started, but so far, we've been rained out both weeks. It's just how it works: if it's raining, it's a bit hard for us in the Waseda outreach group to strike up conversations with people in the open.

Kodaira-san, who is one of the most tireless workers in the KHCN, has fallen sick recently. The dude really does a lot of work, doing ministry in 4 prefectures (ok, really 3 prefectures [Kanagawa, Saitama, Ibaraki] and a special administrative region [Tokyo]), and is also one of the main leaders in the KHCN. Do pray that he will get better soon.

And a couple of weeks ago, we were having Bible study at Hanakoganei with Rekiji and Ken. One of the passages we used was on the Prodigal Son, and since I had just done that the Saturday before for the Shinjuku HC, I felt fortunate. So we were in the midst of a serious discussion, which went something like this:

Steve: Do you see how much the father loved the son in the story? He was standing there waiting, looking out for the son.
Me: I think what was important too was that the son realized the error of his ways and went back.
S: Yes that is important too. While the father was waiting out there, he didn't go to find the son. The son had to realize his wrong and decide to go back.
Me: I agree.
Rekiji: It is a very nice picture of what God is like isn't it?
S: Yes that's how it is with God.
R: (Musing out loud) Still, I wonder what would have happened if the son came running back to the father, and the father was so glad to see the son and ran to meet him, and then the son says to him: "Dad, I need more money".

I don't know why but that sounded so funny that we laughed our heads off.

Ah well that's about it. I'm having fun using skype with friends (free comp-to-comp calls!), but I really should be sleeping. More updates soon!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I was sorta browsing through the net and I saw an article with this news titles:


I used to think scientists would spend time and research grants looking for important things like the cures for cancers, or how to help the world's poor, or a solution for global warming, but maybe some of them just spend hours to discover things that we already knew.

Thanks for the information, Captain Obvious.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I happened to see this video on youtube:

Seems funny, but I wonder, how would she feel if she saw this video?


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Journey to the West

So I went to Osaka for a short personal holiday, just to get to see the Kansai area, but really, it was because I wanted to take the Shinkansen. Naturally enough, I was excited about leaving Tokyo to go out to another city, much like when I took the day trip south to Yokohama.

However, I started off a bit late. I had really intended to go to Tokorozawa HC in the morning, and then leave as soon as service was over to quickly get back home, pack (yes, I hadn’t packed yet), and then get out to the trains as fast as I could. After all, Tokyo station isn’t exactly near to my place, and I was pretty sure it would be crowded, and I wanted to try to get a seat on the side facing Mt. Fuji, and I was thinking that I should try and squeeze as much time at Osaka as possible.

Thing is, on Sunday, we found out that Tomoho-chan was leaving Tokyo to go back to stay with her family in Aomori. And so I felt it wouldn’t be good to quickly run off, especially since this was one of the few times she could stay around for lunch. So a few of us went to eat nearby. Of course, this meant I reached home at around 2.

It was 2.30-ish by the time I left my home, and I got to Tokyo station at about 3.30. Unfortunately, being the dope that I was, I wasn’t sure how to do the Shinkansen tickets at the turnstiles. Especially since they gave me a total of four tickets to use. So I got in, and since I didn’t want to rush for a crowded train leaving at 4, I went to the adjacent track to wait for the 4.17 train.

Making a quick assessment of the seating arrangement, I managed to get a neat window seat on the correct side of the train. That is until I realized I was sitting in the smoking section.

So of course, by the time I transferred to another car, all the window seats on the Mt. Fuji side were taken up. Fortunately, I still managed to get a window seat on the other side. I must have looked like an idiot tourist, taking photos all the time and stuff, but well whatever.

Because I was playing the tourist, I can get to take this sort of nice shots from the Shinkansen.

It was 7 by the time I reached Shin-Osaka station. And after bumbling my way around, I finally managed to reach Ishibashi station, which is where I met Philip, and later on, Ryan. Both these guys are working with Campus Crusades, and I got to know them through Yoshitaka, and I would be staying with them because they were willing to open up their spare room for poor missionaries like me who came by to visit.

Ryan, Philip and me. They are two cool guys who are Campus Crusades staff in Osaka. They've been here for several years already.

I went out soon after to meet my friend Joanne at Umeda station. I knew her from my LAJ classes in NUS, and she’s here in Osaka teaching English as part of the JET program. And she was kind enough to show me around on Sunday night. Not just around Umeda station, where she introduced me to this thing called negiyaki (pancake with lotsa spring onions, tastes like chai tau kway), but also to Namba town, which is kinda considered the heart of Osaka city.

Joanne from NUS/LAJ/JET. This was after two failed self-photos I tried to do. She realized it would be better to get a passerby to help us instead.

Next day I woke up late, and after eating lunch with Philip and Ryan, I decided to go to three places that sounded interesting: the Aquarium, Osaka castle, and the Umeda Sky Garden. I got to the Kaiyukan easy enough, but didn’t really feel like paying ¥2000 to get in, so I ended up taking photos around the place.

There’s this ship there that’s also supposed to be like one of the icons of Osaka called the Santa Maria, but it didn’t unfurl it’s main sail bother it all, so I couldn’t get a very nice shot of it.

The little ship that didn't... unfurl it's sail to let me take a nice picture of it.

It was kinda a gray day at that point of time too, which is why I really didn’t feel like staying around there too long, or taking the ferris wheel. So I left and went over to the castle.

Got this picture in the park around the castle. I's a good photographer.

The original castle was built by Hideyoshi (one of the 3 unifiers of Japan), but it was pretty much razed cos his son started to rebuild the defenses, something the Tokugawa Ieyasu had forbid him to do after the Tokougawa shogunate was in power. This castle was rebuilt relatively recently, and Wikitravel describes it as a museum that was built like a castle, but whatever. It’s still really awesome. Also because when I was there, the sun came out. And we all know that having good sunlight helps make good photos, and helps make you feel happier (generally. Let’s not talk about army route marches and SOC). And I’m kinda thinking, if a Disney movie was set in Japan, you could almost imagine a scene where the castle rises out of the forest and stuff.

It radiates awesomeness!

And since I had decided not to splurge the ¥2000 on the aquarium, I thought I would go in to the castle to see the museum and stuff. Unfortunately, I decided to go in at 5 in the afternoon, which if you’re guessing, is the time they close. Bother.

Got to meet Joanne again for dinner at a curry place she said she preferred cos it actually was somewhat spicy. Then I went to the Umeda Sky Garden.

Was up there at the top

I wanted to go there because I read online that the place offers a really good view of Osaka city. It should; after all, it is 173 meters up in the air. But as I was taking the lift up, and the lift shot out from inside the building to a transparent tube, and the ground started falling away at a rather fast pace, I suddenly remembered that I am absolutely terrified of heights. Of course, since I was with another couple and a family of four in that lift, I tried to act all nonchalant and stuff, but if you had looked, you would have noticed I was gripping the handrails much tighter. It didn’t help that my brain was telling me I was suspended over several hundred feet of air only by a lift cable.

But I got to the top safely, and managed to get some really stupendous shots of the city skyline. (Once there is a proper floor under me, I feel better). Here are some of them. Didn’t stay too long, and I didn’t buy any souvenirs from there, since they were all kinda tacky. But having my pictures was enough.

Osaka at night!

So anyway, as I was preparing to leave this morning, I realized I had this “I-don’t-want-to-leave” sort of feeling. The kind of feeling I had as a kid when my family would go on holiday and we had to leave to go back.

And I guess part of it was that I was begging to settle into the place. And I got to make two great new friends, and got to know an old friend better. I had reached a point where I was starting to get comfortable with being in Osaka, but hadn’t yet fully explored everywhere. And also cos I know I probably would not be heading back to Osaka anytime soon (OMF is based mostly in Kanto-Tohoku-Hokkaido, and I can’t really take or afford that many holidays).

But in the end, I have to go, since my job is in Tokyo.

And I can take solace in the fact that in the modern age of technology, there is facebook for communication, and also, that I have found out how much better takoyaki tastes in Osaka.

I actually wanted to tabao another packet for the train, but that would have just been greedy.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


A while back, I dreamt I had returned to Singapore. Unfortunately, in that dream, after having returned to Singapore, I realized I hadn't gotten my re-entry pass to get back into Japan.

Now, some background. I'm in Japan on a religious work visa. And I can get into the country, which I did in May. But if I want to leave and come back, I have to go to the Immigrations Center and apply for a re-entry pass. If not, when I leave, my visa will expire.

So anyway, in my dream, I had forgotten to do that. And when Pastor Ivan asked me if I had remembered to do that (in my dream), I had the "oh crap I forgot" feeling. Thankfully, I woke up before I peed in my pants or whatnot.

And then just last week, I dreamt that once again, I was back in Singapore. And I was happily doing stuff in Singapore, when I realized that I hadn't done my re-entry pass before leaving Japan.

Funny thing is, in my dream, I could remember that I had dreamt about forgetting to do my re-entry pass in my previous dream, and that I was so stupid to have forgotten (again?), and once again, I had that "oh crap I forgot" feeling, though this time, it was my dad questioning me instead of Pastor Ivan.

I hope this is not a sign that I will forget to do my re-entry pass when I do decide to go back for holiday.

And speaking of dreams, here's a video of a song about dreams:

Reminds me of childhood again. This, along with American Tail, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Plus the teenage mutant ninja turtle emoticon. haha.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day Trip South

So yes, I know it's almost a week since I went down to Yokohama. But I was busy. Sort of.

Anyway, before I had the chance to go on a bit of sightseeing in Kanagawa prefecture last Friday, I went up to Ibaraki for the monthly "Support Ibaraki Housechurch" journey, though since Louis has gone back to Singapore, this time was with Yoshitaka and Kodaira-san.

Generally speaking, the trip was rather uneventful. It was the first time that Yoshitaka had gone up though, and I made the same remarks to him about how the place reminded me of Miyazaki anime, so he told Shirai-san (the lady in charge of the housechurch) that she could name the housechurch the "Totoro HC".

I bought some candy bars to eat in case we got sleepy (specifically for the driver [Yoshitaka] if he got sleepy), and put it in the car. On the way back, when he started to get drowsy, he asked me to help him get some eats out, whereupon I discovered that not one, but both packets of chocolate had become squishy.

I was somewhat surprised, since the day itself wasn't terribly hot. But then we both realized it was because I had left it at a spot in the car where the engine heat was getting to it. (Don't look at me like that. It's where people usually keep candy in the car. Between the two front seats!) Which of course, naturally resulted in this:

After refridgration, of course.

So anyway, back to talking about Yokohama. I woke up late and left home later, it was close to 12 noon by the time I got out of my house. I was considering going on another day, but then I felt that I had been cooped up at home for too long already (due to my overspending last month and the need to save money), so I toddled off to the station.

It was rather cloudy when I left Tokorozawa, and as I was heading to Ikebukuro, it seemed to get darker, which to me, was a bit of a bummer. It didn't look like it would rain, but when you go to a nice port city like Yokohama, especially if you want to see the sea and stuff, generally, you prefer to have sunny skies.

Fortunately, as I traveled further southwest, the weather got better and better. And I started to feel all sunny and excited inside as the train continued rolling along. I'm not sure why. Guess part of it was having been cooped up so long, and part of it was that it was sunny (the weather had been cloudy for close to two weeks already), and also part of it was that it felt like an adventure. Going to somewhere similar in Tokyo, like Odaiba, probably wouldn't have elicted the same emotions in me.

Following the recommendations of a guidebook I inherited from one of the Lau families, I did not stop at Yokohama, but went straight to Sakuragicho. Especially since I wanted to see the ocean. This is what growing up in a small island nation does to you.

View after stepping out from Sakuragicho station. Pretty. Plus, I like clouds.

The place, of course, is really beautiful. I guess the clear blue skies and bright sunlight affected my judgement as well. As I mentioned, Tokyo had been kinda gray the past few days. And being surrounded by buildings all this while (when not surrounded by the four walls of my room) made me forget just how... liberating it was to stand in the middle of an open plaza. Even if it was beginning to get a little warm.

So I started my little tour of the place, roughly following the coastline. And of course, with two batteries fully charged, I started doing touristy things!

There's something appealing about sailing ships...

Being the stingy miser that I was, I didn't go on board this ship, though I did admire it from a distance, and through my camera lens. Generally, I made sure I went to places where I would not have to pay entrance fees. And there were enough there to occupy me for half a day, so no complaints. The specter of my overspending still hung over me.

Pretty, oh so pretty...

Did I mention that the place was scenic? This pictures currently sits on my desktop. And it looks even better if it is like large. Like if it was on your desktop. The ferris-wheel-and-island also reminds me a lot of Odaiba, which is another place I enjoyed going to (haven't gone there yet this time). This is an artificial island, I think. There's a small amusement park, and a huge shopping mall. Didn't really explore the entire place, but one of the points of interest of the island are the old red-brick warehouses.

Looks European

They aren't used as warehouses any more, though they still stock lots of goods in the form of a shopping arcade. And a rather atas one at that. As you can probably guess, apart from admiring the place, I did not buy anything.


Incidentally, this year is also the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city. So they have all sorts of fairs and attractions as part of the celebrations. One of the most iconic shows that is there is this giant mechanical spider. Think it was a rest period or something, so it wasn't moving. But I'm pretty sure you can find videos of it on youtube. Think I heard it was 15m high.

Reminds me of Singapore!

Next up was a visit to the roof of the International Passenger Terminal (Osanbashi). It kinda reminded me of Marina Barrage, with the large open air space, the grass on the roof, the view over the sea.. And you can get lots of good photo opps from here.

City skyline with waterfront... reminds me of Singapore too!

This was just one of the shots I got from the roof of the place. Admittedly, Singapore has many more skyscrapers, but I'm not the only one to think that there is a similarity. Yoshitaka thought so too. Maybe if I put up the nightshot I took...

Reminds me of Singapore! There, this does look a bit more like Singapore right? Ok maybe not really. But well whatever. Incidentally, the tall building on the left is the Landmark Tower, and is one of the tallest buildings in Japan. You must remember that Japan is earthquake prone, so unlike Singapore, they have to take that into consideration.

From the same place...

This is the other side of the terminal. The front part with all the trees is Yamashita Koen, which is good for taking night photos of the bay area, and famous as a lover's park. Many couples go there together, though it seemed like a normal park when I went walking through there. Maybe at night...

One of the five gates leading to the Chinatown

And of course, part of the reason I went to Yokohama was to visit the Chinatown. According to guidebooks, it's as old as the city itself, and is the largest Chinatown in Japan. It has a lot of history. Though I would be lying if I said I was going there for the history. As much as I enjoy history, I was really going there because they had char siew pau.

Reminds of Singa.. no this *is* from Singapore!!

I went wandering through the streets, and through several shops as well. There were quite a lot of food places too, serving Japanese style Chinese food. I must admit that although I was hoping to get nice Chinese food there, during dinner time, none of the shops appealed to me enough for me to go in. I did get my pau though \(^_^)/

So that's about it. I went back to the Osanbashi to take several nightshots, then went down to the Chinatown again for souvenirs before heading back home.

It was fun. Maybe funner with more friends but oh well.



So I've heard of monsoon seasons, and I've heard of typhoon seasons. And I've even heard of tornado seasons.

But is there such a thing as an earthquake season?

Because I felt another one today...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Wow who would have thought that another major earthquake would happen less than two days after that 6.9/7.1 magnitude one? This one was a lot closer to Japan though, just 30 km out from Shizuoka and about 170 km from Tokyo.

Felt the same, ground was sort of like shaking/moving. It kinda felt like if you were standing at the entrance of Yio Chu Kang station and a train was pulling in, just a bit longer than that, as I told brother on Sunday night. Brother also sms-ed to ask if everything was ok. Haha. He must have inherited part of dad's worry syndrome.

And this quake wasn't the only major one to hit this morning. There was also another in the Indian Ocean that was even stronger. Fortunately, no tsunami.

Ok, now back to routine. Got work to do.


Sunday, August 09, 2009


Went out in the evening to pick up something important for dinner.

Though I'm not even officially from the country, there are still some traditions that I feel, need to be kept.

In fact, it's not even about the nationwide celebrations, so much as this is one of the few times I know when everyone in my family makes it a point to be home (this year, it couldn't happen). And while it may not seem like much, it is symbolic, in a way, of what we do every year (except for one year when we had to settle for inferior goods).

Two stations out isn't really that far to go anyway, compared with some places I have been to in the past few days.

I guess, the thing I'll miss most, apart from the family time, would be that I will be unable to join the LAN sessions/Xbox sessions/Wii sessions that will undoubtedly take place tomorrow.

Traditional NDP food

Happy National Day everyone!


P.S. ->Jo: No, we didn't sing National Day songs (you all sang it two months early last year anyway), and there are probably some parties but since I'm not Singaporean... Karen did mention that one Singaporean restaurant was offering 44% discounts to people who could show their pink ICs.. How very Singaporean...

P.P.S. Ooh there was a major quake off the coast of Japan, registering 6.9 (or 7.1, depending on sources) on the Richter scale. I could feel it!! The ground was moving!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Day Trip South Prologue

As today was a free day, I decided to travel out of Tokyo itself and go to Yokohama.

It was really quite fun, and the place is really beautiful.

But I'm too tired to spend time writing about it, so I shall do that sometime in the near future (hopefully, I won't put it off until I have forgotten what happened).


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mind-blowing events

Today, for the first time in my life, I ate natto.

It happened after I decided to attend Matsudo housechurch in Chiba prefecture. Usually, I don't go there, since my work here in Japan is centered mostly around the west side of Tokyo, that housechurch doesn't need me to go and help out (I really can't do a lot, but what little I can do is not really necessary), and it's really far.

Ok, so really far is not so much an issue as having to pay for the train fare, which can be pretty expensive. So I usually don't go that far. Of course, going there is also good, cos the people there are really warm and friendly.

So anyway, I was at Matsudo. And after the housechurch, some of us went to Ootoya to eat dinner. I had the good fortune of sitting with Flo (who's from Belgium), as well as Mr. and Mrs. Ichikawa. And the moment Mrs. Ichikawa heard that I had never eaten natto before, she made sure she ordered an extra bowl of the stuff so that I would have to get my baptism of fire.

Now, just a short background on natto, in case you do not know what it is. It is basically, fermented soy beans that is rich in nutrients and stuff. It's a really wonderful health food, just that the taste is polarizing: you either love it or hate it. It doesn't help that it doesn't really look very appealing either. Just for your info, here's the Wikipedia entry on it.

When it arrived, Mrs Ichikawa divided it into several portions. I think I got about a third the amount. And I ate one bean.

Honestly, if taken in small amounts, it probably wouldn't be too bad. Cos that one bean tasted slightly coffee-ish (a bit like barley tea, just not as strong), and didn't seem too bad.

So I thought to myself, perhaps this isn't quite as bad as Jan and JP make it out to be.

After several more beans, however, I started to realize I didn't quite like the taste of the stuff. So I started mixing it with various other foods I had in front of me. I ate it with the salad (the dressing helped to mask the taste for a bit), I ate it with some soy sauce I got with my fish (not quite so effective), I ate it with rice (not really a good idea, unless you like natto), and then, I found out that the miso soup pretty much washed the taste away, if you drank it after eating the natto.

That's when I made the mistake of thinking that eating it all in one shot and then drinking the soup would help me get rid of the natto.

I managed about two chews before my body tried to make me spit it out. Fortunately for me (and for Mr. Ichikawa, who was sitting opposite me), I managed to hold it down and use my soup to wash away the taste.

The taste of the thing is not terribly strong, like wasabi, and the smell is not terribly strong either, like smelly tofu. But I think I've discovered that I really am not a fan of natto.

Still, dinner with the Ichikawas is really fun, cos they may be about twice my age, but can relate to us like peers. And they are really good at keeping conversations going. Even with inarticulate gaijins like myself.

* * *

Yesterday, I also went to watch fireworks at Tachikawa. It was a combined outing between the Shinjuku, Shinagawa, and Matsudo housechurches, and our friends. I managed to get Shigeki, whom I last met in May with JP, and he was keen to join us that day. So most of us met at Shinjuku station, and then we all went to the Showa memorial gardens, where Karen had booked some space earlier in the afternoon.

It was really crowded over there. There were thousands of people gathering in the field, and this was just one part of the park. By the time I finally got out my camera, it was starting to get dark, so this was one of the few shots I got:

Told ya there were many people

Karen wanted to start by doing an icebreaker, but after only about 5 minutes or so, the fireworks display started, and so we all settled down and watched the show.

Happy firework!

Now, you probably can't see it from here, but some of the fireworks were really huge. They could easily have been several hundred meters in diameter.

This one was probably only about 100 m across, methinks, making it one of the average-sized ones.

In the midst of my trigger-happy mood, one of the things I noticed, is that if you go to a hanabi, and want to really enjoy a good show, you can't spend all your time taking photos, cos you'll miss out on the hanabi itself.

So pretty

The second thing I noticed is that all the pictures, and the videos I took of the event, did not do justice to what really happened there. The colours, though nice, are not as vibrant. And the atmosphere there creates a whole different sense of the event.

It's like my Japanese culture class teacher (can't remember if it was Prof Teow or Prof DuBois) used to say, part of the sense of the aesthetic, is that the beauty that you see is transient, the 'mono no aware' (物の哀れ). And I guess part of that beauty of the fireworks is that you can't really reproduce it. Or at least, not with my Canon Ixus.

Yeah. Really doesn't do justice.

A final thought that occured to me was that this was probably the best wide-screen show I've ever had. Ok, yes I know, we've probably become so accustomed to all these 'modern' techonologies that we now need to compare nature to it, instead of the other way round.

Circles within circles....

But seriously, sometimes, we are so impressed by what we have made, that we forget to see what God has given to us already. And while we go chasing after that 43-inch plasma TV or give effusive praise to the iMax theater, we fail to notice that great wide-screen expanse known as the sky.

And I'm glad that at least for an hour and a half on a clear Saturday night, I am reminded that not only is my God the God of love, but also the God of all creation.

Could be a rock concert. But it isn't.

And do pray that for some of our non-Christian friends who went, that they would realize that there is a Creator. That the icebreaker that Karen did with postcards about how Jesus loves us would speak to them. And that this event would help us in getting to know them better as well.

Ok, that's about it for now.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The long-awaited food edition

So the temperature in Tokyo has started to get really rather warm... Sometimes, at 10am here, it's like Singapore at 1230. The only thing I can be thankful for is that it really isn't quite as humid as in Singapore. And also for aircon. I finally had to start using this wonderful invention this past week. Before that, I could get by on a fan and an open window. Now, when you open the window, it's too hot, and when you close it, it's too stuffy. Hooray for summer.

One good thing is that the chances for nice photos is greatly increased, thanks to the clear skies everyday. So I can find pictures like these:

Taken at Shinagawa.

Also at Shinagawa.

Shinagawa really is a pretty place.

But anyway, let's move on to what I have promised for so long. Having lived here for slightly longer than 2 months, I have more or less learned to take care of myself. And I shall show you what I have as a regular diet.

I usually try to make sure I eat a balanced meal, like this:

A balanced meal. It contains the three Cs of Cookies, Chips, and Chocolate.

Ok, ok just kidding. I only eat this for snacks.

Here is a standard sub-meal at your local fast food joint. It is merely a sub-meal, since it doesn't come with fries and a drink. Also because I was eating it for supper with JP when he wanted to use the wireless at MacDonald's. The wonderful thing about these two items is that they are both from the ¥100 menu.

Everytime I tell someone in Singapore that there is McPork here, they start laughing their heads off.

Usually however, when I go to MacDonald's, I only get the milkshakes, or a small drink, which are also from the ¥100 menu.

But, I'm sure you want to know what I eat at home.

Starter meal: Not including aspirin

Of course, the way I started off was with instant ramen. Which tastes very good, though if you don't rinse it after boiling it, you're eating a lot of wax, according to various health experts who have talked to me about food. As you can see, this is a real balanced meal, with vegetables and stuff.

But as fun as eating instant ramen is, you really can't eat it all the time. So I have found another form of nourishment from nearby convenience stores:

This is even better! It's rice, protein, and vegetables all *rolled* into one! haha! Get it? Get it?

The wonders of the onigiri are that they are cheap, there are many different varieties, they are 'mobile-foods', and I like 'em. JP likes 'em too. So on days we want to save money, we eat a couple of these for a meal and we're set.

There, of course, is also the wonder of frozen food:

Mmmm.... Just like in college...

This one is pretty nice to eat. Of course, it's probably chock full of preservatives, which is why the other option for pizza is to buy a bottle of sauce and put it on bread.

One thing I did try was to use spaghetti sauce on rice. I was hoping it would be like those baked rice sort of things:

Isn't really much to look at.

It was edible, but the taste of the spaghetti sauce was a tad too strong for my liking. Which is part of the reason why I have not done it again. (The other part is that I had only one packet).

I have done some real cooking of course. The first thing I really tried was to do simple stir fry vegetables and some stir fried chicken pieces. The vegetables came out ok. The chicken, on the other hand, was tasteless. That's when my mom and friends told me that I had to use soy sauce. Cooking 101: Soy sauce is important.
The next thing I tried a hand at was the Japanese style curry:

Was a bit too watery and the carrots were not cooked enough.

It tasted ok, and I think, if I remembered correctly, I had a pretty decent meal. What you can't see from that picture, was that I had made way too much, and I was resigning myself to eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days. Fortunately for me, Steve and Kathi, who have moved into Louis' place, invited me over for dinner, and I offered to bring the curry over.

I also tried making chicken soup:

If you think it looks familiar, yes, I did use the other half of the ingredients from the Japanese curry for the soup.

It was pretty ok too. Unfortunately though, it was apparent after cooking that I had not learnt my lesson from Japanese curry, and I made too much again. Unlike last time however, Steve and Kathi couldn't bail me out this time.

I did make some real curry though. As in, like, Singaporean style curry. This was when Steve and Kathi hosted a short term team from America, and they were gonna have a curry dinner. So I volunteered to help out by making a pot, and fortunately, no one got stomachaches. Or at least, if they did, they didn't tell me.

The 'Singapore' curry.

Of course, what I feel was my best self-cooked thing is this:

Brother's favourite food!

And the funny thing was, I was using dad's recipe. Haha. The last time he cooked fried rice was somewhere in 2003 or something, and it only had egg. And rice. But he passed me his recipe (not sure where he got it from), and well, it works pretty well.

Ok, that's a really long post. And I'm starting to feel hungry again.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Taking a walk

Today, after Tokorozawa Housechurch, I decided to take it upon myself to go to the Uniqlo around the Tokorozawa - Kokukoen area. There's one which Louis and Chris go to regularly, and I wanted to go, cos I was thinking of buying some t-shirts and stuff, and they tend to have discounts on weekends.

Usually they drive, since it is not exactly nearby. I, however, was feeling bored, and the weather was rather nice today, additionally, I haven't exercised in quite a long time, so I decided to walk. Of course, there was also the fact that I don't have a car, so I wouldn't have been able to drive anyway.

And so I set off, at about 3.00 in the afternoon, and started walking towards Uniqlo.

2 hours and 2 backtracks later, I still hadn't found the place.

Perhaps, it was because I have not done a proper navigation for a long time. Perhaps, it was because I miscalculated how long it would take for me to walk. Perhaps, it was because I did not do my pacing properly.

But most likely, it was because I did what could be described as the most stupid thing anyone intending to walk to some place he is unfamiliar with could have done: I went without a map. And not only did I go without a map, I went without even taking a look on the internet to have a rough idea of where I should be going.

And also, it was because I realized that minor miscalculation only after I had walked about 10 mins out from my place. And I did not feel like going back, trusting my own 'abilities' to get me there.

Of course, as I found out, my own abilities are far from proficient, which is something I've come to realize time and time again in life. Whether it's with regard to language proficiency, exams, or even just living my Christian life, I have come to realize that I really can't do it by myself. Even though all too often, I have such a strong, misguided belief in my own strength that I fail to turn to God.

What is good though, is that no matter what I've done, God is always there with me. Whether I'm walking closely with Him as I should, or when I have turned from Him and started to trust in myself, He's always with me. Sometimes, He'll pull me out of the jam I got myself into, but sometimes, He'll let me go my own way, and then after I realized what a fool I've been, He'll help me back to where I'm supposed to be.

It's good to know that there is a God who does care for me, that He's there all the time, and to know that He knows everything that has happened, and everything that will happen. Takes away a lot of the stress about the future.

Now, I just need to go and take a look at that map so that I can walk there next weekend...

* * *

Went to Ueno Zoo on Friday, saw lots of animals, but there was one in particular that caught my eye...

AHHHH! Rabbids! (on the left)

* * *

Ok, quick prayer note, just this past week, I was at Waseda University with Mai-chan (who does outreach at Waseda too with Yoshitaka), and Greg (who's part of a short term team from Massachusetts and South Carolina). This small group of us seemed a bit odd, since Mai-chan doesn't really speak English, Greg doesn't really speak Japanese, and I'm somewhere in the middle, though definitely more on the English side.

Then we met this girl called Nami, who's a Zen Buddhist. And she can speak a bit of English. And so the four of us had this conversation, where Greg (who used to be interested in Zen before he became Christian), would talk a bit with her, I would try to translate, and Mai-chan would translate my broken Japanese into proper Japanese.

To cut a long story short, at the end, Greg asked if he could pray for her, and asked if she had any specific prayer requests. She was unsure how to go about this, but in the end, she asked that if there is a God who really loves her, that He will let her feel/show that He does love her.

So please pray that God will answer her request.

Ok, that's about all for now. Sorry, still nothing about the food yet, but now's not really the time to be talking about food, since I am starting to feel hungry already, and I know my good friend Fuzzy wants to eat prata/fish head curry/laksa/Taiwanese Instant beef noodles.