A week of April in Tokyo

Last year, I had not had the chance to visit Japan, or Tokyo, for that matter. For a few years running, I think I had the chance to make an “annual pilgrimage” to Tokyo, one of the cities that never fails to lighten up my heart when I think of visiting. I wouldn’t go so far as to proclaim as it “my home”, because my home rightly will always be Singapore, with its warts and all, good and bad. It is where I will feel most comfortable in and where my loved ones are. But Tokyo, as a place to visit and holiday in, remains at the top. Perhaps until such day when I have a chance to live and work there for a prolonged period of time that will either change this view for better or for worse…

I booked myself on an early morning flight to Haneda, and before getting onto the plane, since I don’t get complimentary access to the lounge anymore (sigh), I made a short pit-stop at Coffee Bean for a tea latte before boarding.

Coffee Bean’s tea lattes are my favourite drink from them, despite that they tend to be fairly sweet due to the vanilla/chocolate powder being used, but somehow I always find them to be quite enjoyable. Maybe it’s the sweet tooth in me speaking up.  While waiting to board the flight, and on this weekday morning to Haneda, it seemed that the flight would not be a full one, judging by the sparse crowd in the waiting area. Indeed, it wasn’t full and there was quite a bit of space available. But it’s an old plane that SQ is using, a 777-200, so the KRIS World system isn’t the new version and can be a bit wonky at times, with a tiny screen that provides a low quality of movies that you watch. Nevertheless, at least there is inflight entertainment to tide me through the 6-hour flight.

When I got to Haneda, I decided to take the Airport Limousine Bus, but which also meant I had a long wait for the bus to depart. I wandered around the airport, which was not much in terms of shops that I could mill around, and also because I was lazy to wheel my luggage around. Even with a 4-wheeler, it still requires some effort particularly because the airport has those metal studs to facilitate the visually-impaired in getting to the lights and escalators, which impeded the smooth movement of the wheels. Got these from 7-11, a small cup of mixed beans salad and a red bean-flavoured Kit Kat! I love the convenience stores of Japan (only Taiwan follows close behind) and what they have. If only we get these here too. The convenience stores in Singapore aren’t really that ‘convenient’ at all, and often times, the prices are just exhorbitant.   On the ride to the hotel, which is just a 45 or 50-minute ride from Haneda. That’s the good part about flying in/out through Haneda, which is located much closer to the city as compared to Narita. However, if you are going by Narita, the NEX makes the transit shorter, less than an hour, but for lazy people like me who want the convenience of the Airport Limousine in terms of porterage for your luggage, then Haneda makes a good choice.  I reached the hotel in the evening and had a relatively quick and smooth check-in to the hotel, Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, my usual go-to hotel in Tokyo, which is located just opposite Takashimaya Shinjuku and boasts competitive pricing, especially if you are staying multiple nights and book early. The rooms are small but they are generally clean and well-maintained, and for the most part I find it to be sufficient for me. I have stayed in their double rooms before once, and other times, always booked the ‘Bright Single Room’. As you can see, there really isn’t much space for you to move around, especially if you have more than one piece of luggage, but with some maneuvering, it shouldn’t be too tough. I laid the luggage facing up on a rack the whole period when I was there and managed fine, but just needed to be a bit careful in not knocking into it in those middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.    That’s it for now, shall update more when I can. 🙂

weather finally got to me

A few days has passed since the last post, and all for good reason. I finally succumbed to the flu bug that has been making its rounds everywhere, especially within the office. Although I am rather proud to say that I seldom fall seriously ill because generally I am considerably healthy (or that I would like to think!), I think my body is sending me strong signals to rest, even if the lack of rest is because I am spending time doing other good things like learning and exercising. It probably started on Monday when I developed a slight sore throat, which was a pretty rare occurrence because that kind of sore throat I experienced typically only happened after a bout of cold/runny nose, which in this case did not happen. It gradually got worse, and after that a cold set in, body aches, and possibly fever I don’t know, I just felt feverish and achey all over and my head on one day, threatened to split open, and all that despite that I had errands to run. I couldn’t really stay home and rest on that one day that I was at my sickest, with a throbbing head and a hazy consciousness, because just a day after that I was due to make a 18-hour trip, flight and transit times inclusive. Well, that is just part and parcel of the job, sick or not I still have to go.

Falling ill is really not a great feeling, which proves to me again that it is important to eat well and live well. The other additional thing I need is to sleep/rest well.

So the other day I posted the picture of the Kit Kat that a girlfriend brought back from Japan, and I couldn’t resist having it (maybe this contributed to the worsening flu situation but oh well, sometimes they can cure too, who knows); check out the interesting sakura-flower patterns on the chocolate bar! 

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I must really give it to the Japanese for placing such emphasis on the little details, that’s why I am always going a little overboard when I visit Japan and end up over-indulging on their snacks that are all over the combinis and supermarkets. Last month, I bought this strawberry-flavoured Pocky, and the really cute thing was that the biscuit was made in the shape of a heart! I don’t know what the reason for this was since we are still a couple months away from Valentine’s, but it was just something I thought was rather funny. Heart-shape or not, it’s not going to affect how I feel about eating it, I just like the strawberry flavour of it. 20130113-192534.jpg

learning is a continuous journey

Have been posting a lot of my personal thoughts over the last few days, so it’s quite evident that I have not been checking out food places and the likes. That happens when I am in Singapore, where I spend most of my free time outside of the office rushing for classes and the likes. But since this is anyhow a personal blog, it can be boring if I am writing about food all the time, where in my case it’s mainly cafe fare that I am so big on, although personal thoughts can be just as mundane and staid.

I tend to always want myself, my actions and my beliefs, thoughts and whatever, to be validated by someone else. Perhaps it is an innate trait of mine that has developed from young, but part of me always crave acceptance, from family, friends, society at large, and so on. Maybe as I grow older and begin to be a little kinder to myself, I will tell myself that what others want to feel about me and think about me, is up to them, and is something I have little control over. I can never live up to everyone’s expectations of me, and neither can I ever know what everyone wants of me, so there is no point in striving to become a me that they will want or like. It is tiring, to say the least, to live a life like that, even if it could be a crystal clear idea to most and even to me, yet that desire had almost always won over the rational side of thinking.

To exacerbate that silly craving for acceptance, I get affected way too easily by what others think and say; when someone says something, whether about me or themselves, that I do not agree with or that makes me unconsciously draw a parallel to them, I start to feel bad about certain things. I begin to think that I am not good enough, that I am not doing something right, or to the point that I think what I do is right and the other way must be wrong I grow defensive over my actions and start to grow irritable when a friendly argument ensues. Frankly, there is seldom a clear-cut right or wrong, especially with opinions. No two persons can have the absolute same feeling about one matter, and as a friend rightly pointed out to me, it is me who allowed someone to make me feel bad, because what someone says is his/her perogative and it is just as well my right to not be affected and feel bad because for instance, I think I am not eating the right foods, not exercising enough, spending too much money taking taxis to work, splurging on expensive hotel rooms when I travel. How I live my life is based on my own means and standards, I do not need to adhere to someone else’s yardstick of life or try to mirror my life with theirs because it is almost impossible and more importantly, meaningless and pointless.

With all these recent posts, do I feel vulnerable that I am baring my soul on the online realm? I don’t know, perhaps one day I will regret writing some of the things I did here, but somehow writing about them to share how I feel sometimes makes things a little better. And as long as these are thoughts of mine, feelings of mine, there is no issue on copyright, no harm to anyone else, and also, no harm to me.

To end off this post, albeit a little abruptly, I got a new Kit Kat flavour from Japan! One of the girl friends was in Tokyo recently and came back with this for us!  20130108-091526.jpg

for the love of chocolate

Each time I visit Japan, usually Tokyo anyway, or when I’m transiting at Narita Airport, I will always check out what kind of seasonal food items they have, and by food items, I mean chocolate, more specifically, Kit Kat. I won’t profess to be a major chocolate fan but like most females, I have a soft spot for chocolates, and sometimes eating them really do make me feel better instantaneously, even if there is this guilt lingering in me thereafter for indulging. But we all need indulgences occasionally, the key is to control the frequency of these occasions, and moderate the amount of indulging.

Sometime back, one of my friends showed me a Facebook album of her friend, which shows all the different types of seasonal Kit Kat, including information on its flavour and where it was purchased, etc. I was really impressed, because as much as I have been so much into getting these items, my focus is mainly just to buy and eat them. I’m not very good when it comes to thinking ahead to want to start something like that and then keep it going, so maybe I am more of a here-and-now kind of person, but then again, with an extremely low threshold for risk; so much for living in the here-and-now. Or whatever that term is supposed to be.

In January this year, I carted back some Kit Kat from Tokyo, and this was one of those that I bought, blueberry cheesecake flavour!

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I have only just re-discovered them in my fridge at home, which is actually some treasure trove of forgotten chocolates bought from places I have went to. I know that perhaps some of these are always way past their expiry dates but I have zero qualms about eating chocolates that are past their best-before date. As long as they don’t taste funky, I think they are ok. And since I am not gifting them to anyone, I don’t think that is an issue either. If anything happens to me as a result of eating them, I am only accountable to myself.

Maybe I will see if I can get anymore pictures of what’s left in my fridge, and perhaps that will motivate me to finish what I have. Generally, once things go into my fridge, with of course the exception of my regular groceries like fruits, cereals and yogurts, the rest of the things just get lodged there in a state of semi-permanent residency. There are some that I have found later on, years later, and decide to throw them away because I don’t think they are still edible or I don’t feel like eating them anymore.

It is a waste I know, but when travelling it can be hard to resist buying things on the fly and be impulsive or spontaneous. Once back home, I may either not have the want to eat those things, or they were meant to be gifts that were forgotten. Either ways, I have already cut back on spending when I travel, whether it is shopping for clothes, accessories, and other ornamental stuff, or food.

Something in me is making me very excited about the impending arrival of Christmas, despite not having any special plans for it. I guess it is just the year-end festive feel that is making me feel this way, with the Christmas shoppers already coming out in full force in Orchard Road. I don’t really need to do any Christmas shopping this year, but maybe it is then a good reason/excuse for me to buy some gifts for myself instead.

craving for the sweets

Treats from land of the rising sun that have disappeared into my mouth and into the thing they call a spare tyre, love handles, what-have-yous…

Disappointing mush of what is supposed to carrot cake at the P.S. Cafe. Weren’t you better before in providing comfort?

And it’s amusing how there is a need to announce to the world-at-large, or rather stare the eater in the face, the name of this cake, with a chocolate badge of the shop’s name. Not the best I’ve had definitely but doesn’t taste too bad either.

Days when I crave for something sweet, something sinful, yet the guilt trips they send me on engage in a delicate balancing act with the sugar high that results. Mind is lapsing into a suspense mode from the hours spent trying to decipher the familiar yet strange-looking characters that we call hiragana, katakana and kanji, in an eleventh hour attempt to revise and mug for the impending exams. I think I need more comfort food, because the unusual bout of concentrating on studying has multiplied the weariness that is seeping into the bones, yet time is just running out on me that slumber moments become hard to get.

fruity flavours

Just feeling really bored. This morning, I rummaged through the fridge and noticed I still have some Kit Kat from past trips to Japan. Aside from the one pictured below, the rest have yet to expire. But I don’t really care about expiry dates when it comes to chocolates, especially since they have been taking up a rather permanent sort of residence in the cool quarters of the fridge for the longest time so any bacteria causing food decomposition should rightfully be dead if not inactive? I finished the 4 fingers (2 individually-wrapped satchels) and have not suffered any runs, so either my theory is correct, or I just have a really strong stomach.

The point is not on the expiration date of the chocolates or my penchant for hording food but that I’m amazed that the moment I tore open the foil packaging, I could distinctly smell the scent of apples! OMG, how strong is the flavouring that I can smell it so well?! Anyway, the apple-flavoured chocolate is cream-coloured but definitely not white chocolate, so are they able to make chocolates without any milk in them? I forgot to read the ingredients, not that they would have made much sense since my comprehension of Japanese is still extremely elementary. Verdict: Delicious, and I will keep up with my habit of buying interesting and new flavours of Kit Kat when I see them. The only time I gave them a miss was when I saw shoyu-flavoured (iirc) ones. Like… would you dip your chocolates in soya sauce before eating them? Ewe.

At 136 JPY, it’s about S$2 or S$0.50 per finger of Kit Kat. Not exactly cheap, but that’s the allure of Kit Kat for me; I have liked it since a long time back, probably also because of the crispy wafer biscuit wrapped within. I am not particularly enamoured with chocolates, since most chocolate connoiseurs or at least people who profess a deep love for chocolates typically prefer dark chocolate as opposed to my usual favourite of milk ones. And I like chocolates that are flavoured, because they are made more interesting and complex, despite the flavouring probably being artificial at best and masking the true taste of the fine cocoa that was used in the fnal product. But you can’t deny that on days when I feel horrible, eating chocolates somehow just perk me up, of course ignoring the endless nagging in my mind of the excessive calories that I’m intaking with each chomp.