Tuesday, December 27, 2016

bb in japan

BB needs a post on her own, and this will be the last Japan post. I think we’ve had quite enough.

She usually squeaks via Jo – apparently the only person who can translate BB squeak into English – but this time I’ll do it. Like one of those primary school compositions we used to do which go, “Imagine you are a…” (kids don’t get these sorts of compositions anymore though, I wonder why)

I think the girls will lap it up.

BB'S ADVENTURES IN JAPAN

“Lulu loves me and brings me everywhere so she had to bring me to Japan.

When we were on the plane, I hid in her bag because I don’t have a passport.

Once we were in Japan, she took me out and put me in the hood of her jacket. That’s how I got to see Japan, from behind Lulu’s head.

I wasn’t lonely. She put baby BB in together with me and Jody would be in charge of making sure that we were both perfectly straight and facing upwards so we could see everything, at least in the sky.

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Jody was also our security guard to make sure that we won’t drop out and that no one would pluck us away.

They took lots of photos of me.

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I like Japan. Its where I came from. The rest of my clan is called Sumikko Gurashi.

Lulu found and picked me up when she came to Japan a few years ago. I was in a shoebox with some rice grains and biscuits. I have a sad birth story. My mother was about to give birth to me, she was so happy, holding my father's hand, when hunters suddenly appeared. My parents tried to run, but they shot my father. My mother gave birth quickly and held me in her arms. She was Japanese and could only speak a little bit of English, but she told me: You are special, because your father and mother are special.

She threw me into some bushes before the hunters shot her. 

I was still very tiny, the size of a twenty-cent coin, but I wandered around until some people found me and took care of me; but only for a while because it was too expensive to keep a BB. They then abandoned me in the shoebox.

Now that I've returned to Japan, I was very happy to see so many of my kith and kin. Some of them came back to Singapore with me.

What happened? We were walking in Takashimaya Times Square one day, up and down, up and down, Lulu was vainly searching for my family members and everyone was getting very tired when suddenly, she saw a whole shelf of them.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” she squealed. She ran over, reached for the biggest one and squished her face into it. “Oh Mama! It’s my dream come true!”

Lulu’s Mama is quite the stingy poke, but she decided to be kind that day because it’s nice to make dreams come true. Big BB joined baby BB and I.

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* Jody making the introductions

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Everybody loved big BB even though Lulu later found out that its bobbly tail was loose. They slept on her, hugged her and threw her around. 

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I was glad they had something else to throw around, because Lulu and her brother and sister are always doing that to me, even in Japan. It was like they had nothing else to play with. It made me nauseous sometimes and I got very dirty.

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* See me?

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* Yikes!

And then at the Narita Airport where we had to spend five hours doing nothing but window-shop because our flight had been delayed, David spotted another member of my clan at an airport shop.

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* Apologies, free drinks and food from the airline

Lulu’s Mama decided to buy it because David is always snatching and stealing me away from Lulu – I hate that - and he once said that he desperately wanted a BB too.

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His BB is a boy, and it’s not a guinea (pronounced gwee-nee) pig like me. David thought he was a duck but it turns out he’s a penguin."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

japan 5: nuggets

GETTING AROUND

We didn’t drive. We got around using the trains. Language didn't turn out to be much of an issue, as crucial signs were also in English and, in Tokyo at least, people spoke English.

The lifesaver was a portable wifi device the size of a pager from Changi Airport, which cost all of $5 a day, which enabled all of us with mobile devices to connect to the Internet at very decent speeds.

Day, who carried the wifi device in his bag, and KK, were the navigators. We got around using pre-paid passes which acted like farecards.

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* Our trusty Suica passes

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* KK and Day reading the signs and leading us

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* Much time spent in the train stations

To our great surprise, navigation was a breeze, even in the massive Shinjuku station which we were warned about. Day’s quite the natural. We only got lost once, when we went back and forth between trains trying to find the right one back.

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* The downside of wifi on the go: Boy's on the mobile phone even when we're not travelling

And perhaps because of where we were – Tokyo – we hardly saw any kids. On the packed silent trains, surrounded by hordes of men and a few women in mostly black heading to or coming back from work, I beseeched the kids to be silent as tombs / not sneeze or cough. The commutes all seemed terribly serious and proper journeys on which they really had to behave.

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* Day thankfully stood out like a beacon in the sea of black, so we could follow even when he and KK were far ahead

FOOD

Not much to say here, most people would have been to Japan and know that every bit of food is perfect, even rice balls from the 7-11 equivalent.

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* Lulu covering her face because even though we were in a non-smoking area of the restaurant, the smoke was heavy and the girls choked on it

There were recommended places to check out, but after trying to get into one and seeing the long queue, we just popped into anywhere. Some of the food which I liked:

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We have also discovered that we are not sushi lovers. Rather, we like our sushi and sashimi well enough, but we aren’t discerning enough to drool over the offerings at the Tsukiji fish market. It’s just…. a lot of raw fish which doesn’t taste all that different from what we have in Singapore. (I know, it’s criminal! But what to do when we’re not connoisseurs)

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* Huge pieces of raw fish blanketing the rice

WINTER

We landed freezing, and by the time we left 11 days later I was left holding bunches of discarded puffy jackets as the kids had gotten used to it and felt too hot.

The coldest one, however, would have to be Lu. The poor skinny tyke’s cold tolerance is quite a bit lower than her siblings.

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* Spot Lulu

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* We ended up buying her a balaclava which is perfect

We saw the last vestiges of autumn, and the scenery was mainly that of bare branches and dry, brown grass. I think autumn would have been prettier but too bad, we needed to ski!

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* Remnants of autumn beneath our feet

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* Plains of dried grass

URBANITY

While we had the longest time to spend in Tokyo, it wasn't quite our thing. The people and bustle was draining, and we don't shop. We would infinitely have preferred to spend more time at the ski resort, or the seaside town.

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* We ventured to Shibuya, took one lackluster shot of that crossing and escaped. For us, it really was a waste of time. KK, exhausted, said, "That's it ah?"

VIEWS FROM THE TOP

For some reason we spent a lot of time in tall edifices which offer views of Tokyo. There was the Skytree, which charges for admission. Then there was also the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which was free and which we went up several times because our hotel was next to it. After a while we went up not for the views, but to eat.

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* Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

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* View from the Skytree with what is apparently the silhouette of Mount Fuji

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* Skytree shadow

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* Skytree viewing gallery

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* Santa window cleaners

A LOSS

Day left his beanie in a convenience store and thought he lost it, but upon returning and asking if anything had been found, retrieved it.

Lu left her balaclava at the ski resort and thought she lost it, but when we asked, it turned up at lost and found.

Jo went to a very windy beach at a seaside town, Kamakura, and in the process of playing at the black sand beach with Lu lost or dropped her phone. (she claims she passed it to me) 

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* Day at the Yuigahama Beach, which is a windsurfing haven

Upon discovering the loss when we had moved on to the Great Buddha, she prayed to the Buddha for good luck and blessings before she and I rushed back to the beach to try and retrieve it. Buddha didn’t grant her wish. Despite all our best efforts are retracing our footsteps, we found nothing as we scrabbled through the sand, trying to spot the phone in the dark.

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* The Great Buddha of Kamakura, where it dawned on her that she wasn't holding her phone

The rest of the family are most surprised that amongst the trio, the one to lose something is Jo.

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* The last photo she took on her phone, similar to this one which I snapped at the same time. She was most upset over the loss of her photos

JAPANOPHILE?

Some friends go to Japan again and again after one time there, they love everything about it.

Between us, KK and Jo seemed to like it the most. 

Jo in particular, kept repeating that she loves the country. Its cleanliness, warm toilets with multiple functions (although none of us dared to try any of it apart from KK), attention to detail, how things are beautifully wrapped and packaged. When she saw a book store lady deftly wrapping a paper cover around a book I was buying, she actually turned to me to smile in delight.

“Why don't they do this in Singapore? I love Japan,” she said.

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* Me, because I took all the photos and I wanted to be in one myself

Friday, December 23, 2016

japan 4: bathing in the onsen

So when the girls and I entered the onsen, a naked lady who was alone in the pool gave a little squeal when she saw us and clutched a tiny towel to her body before scuttling out.

We really wouldn’t have minded sharing.

But it was nice that after peeling off all of our clothes (the girls had no reservations when they saw I had none) and showering, we had the whole onsen to ourselves for the next 20 minutes or so, when we floated in the steaming hot water.

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* Disrobing, changing, dressing area

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* The showers

Lu and I were quick to immerse ourselves, Jo took a good five minutes to go from toe to neck, but as the minutes passed it became obvious that the onsen was having a definite effect. “Mama, I’m feeling very dozy,” said Jo, who up until then knew nothing about onsens. “Ya I’m sleepy,” Lu chimed in agreement.

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* The indoor pool, it was all steamy in the enclosed room

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* The view from the outdoor pool

After soaking in both indoor and outdoor pools, we languidly put on our kimonos and, feeling warm to the core, drunkenly lurched our way up to our room where the girls, pink all over like slightly-boiled salmon, collapsed on their beds. The girls liked it so much they wanted to wake up at 6am the next morning to enjoy the onsen before we had to check out and catch the train back to Tokyo. (they didn't)

The hot spring was fortuitously part of the little traditional Japanese inn we were staying in at Yuzawa, Otowoya Ryokan.

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* The ryokan on a snowy night

There were four pools: An indoor and outdoor for the men, a separate pair for the women.

The onsens were the perfect finishing touch on the ryokan experience, which from what I gather is the whole sleeping-on-tatami, wearing of kimonos and eating of kaiseki meal. It was Wow Wow Wow all the way. I'm glad we got to try it.

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* The entrance where we are to leave our (wet) shoes and change to slippers

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* Room by night, five mattresses replacing the table all laid out. KK working away in the corner on his laptop

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* Private dining rooms

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* A dinner

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* One morning's breakfast

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* In-room wrestling

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