Change – the only constant

Over the last few years, it seems like so much has happened since when I started working. Although it’s been more than 10 years, in the whole scheme of things, comparing it against the number of years that I would be in the workforce it isn’t such a long time. Yet, everything feels surreal and like in a drift.

When we were in school, there were always milestones to reach and goals to achieve. These were set for us by the academic system, to enter primary school, pass the PSLE and go on to secondary school, clear GCE ‘O’ Levels and either go to a JC or Polytechnic. From there, it could be onward to University or for some, they decide to enter the workforce. For most part of that schooling journey, exams are sort of the climax of each phase, and there is a fairly fixed time frame to work with. But the game changes entirely when we enter the working world. There are people I know who have set goals to retire early, as in reaching the stage where they choose to work, and not work because they need to. Then they work tirelessly towards that. I am not so ambitious, because simply put, I don’t know how I can work towards that, and I don’t know what would be a realistic age to set. As it is, I am not exactly young but yet not that old to look forward to retirement.

Sure, given a choice, I would rather not be working in a job where the only thing worth looking forward to is the monthly pay-check, and sometimes the bonus, or lack thereof. I would also want to arrive at the self-actualisation stage defined in Maslow’s hierarchy where work no longer feels like work, and that I actually enjoy what I do day-to-day. Then again, the lack of spirit just makes me think that is myth. Or it boils down to the fact that I don’t really know what I like to do. And if what I sort of enjoy doing can become something that could earn me a livelihood, or if I could even motivate myself to work so hard to be so good at it to make it a revenue-generating activity.

Some people have set other kinds of goals outside of the corporate life. To them, they accept that work can only be something that pays them to do what they like to do beyond it, so their goals are defined in their personal lives, such as getting married, owning a property (and more thereafter maybe), having children, and so on. The moment the kids come along, the milestones also change to revolve around their growth and development, and finally their own retirement. This is not something that I have considered or thought of at this point.

I don’t know where I am heading with this entry. It was just motivated from my internal rumination as I went through some photos and thoughts that surfaced when I considered the people around. Sometimes, life feels like a tiring and tiresome journey. We try so hard to keep things going yet it always feels so one-sided and pointless. At some point, it almost becomes that things I used to enjoy, I don’t really do and I don’t know what is it that I enjoy anymore and what is it I would enjoy at all. Everything just feels meaningless – life, people, things. Even travelling doesn’t seem appealing anymore because there just is no point in it.

Collated a set of food pictures from more than 3 years ago when I went to Tokyo, and as I looked at them, I realise that I no longer enjoy some of them, and don’t eat most of them anymore. Have my taste buds changed or do I just don’t get enjoyment from eating anymore?

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Shimbashi Soba, Paragon

Two of my friends gave me a treat last Friday and suggested checking out Shimbashi Soba in the basement of Paragon. To be honest, I have never stepped foot into this place despite that I think it has been there for the longest time, although I don’t know why. I do quite enjoy Japanese food, and among the noodle varieties, soba and ramen are the type that I prefer as compared to say, udon.

This is my order of the san zai soba, a huge bowl in fact, that comes with a very flavourful and savoury broth despite that it really is just soup noodles with lots of mushrooms and some vegetables. 20130723-084243.jpg

We ordered some sides, and among the three items, this was the most popular; battered and fried hotate. The batter was thin although not very crispy, but the scallop within retained its juiciness and it was also very generous in terms of size! 20130723-084259.jpg

We thought we ordered grilled teriyaki chicken, and when this was served we checked if this was the right thing, which was confirmed. But don’t you think this looks more like tori karaage than teriyaki grilled chicken?20130723-084311.jpg

It was as well coated with some flour and fried, strangely, since the name evidently said “grilled”. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t crispy despite that it appeared deep-fried but to their credit, I think it was drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

And lastly, the tempura moriawase, consisting a couple pieces of prawn, the usual vegetables and maybe one piece of fish. Not the best tempura I had of course, but not too bad. At least it was not dripping with oil so overall I still quite enjoyed it.20130723-084322.jpg

I can’t really recall for each item how much they cost, but price level tends towards the high side, because one simple bowl of soba without many ingredients (if any at all) already costs more than S$10. There were more elaborate ones that could set you back by S$30, and the sets also around that price range or even more. To their benefit, the soba was good. I loved the consistency of the noodle and the broth did not feel like it was laden with MSG, at least I didn’t feel it. But the sides were a little lackadaisal, or they were just ordinary. Still, it was a treat and the evening was well-spent, not so much focused on the food but the company and the chatter we shared.

Mikuni at Fairmont

What used to be called Inagiku many years ago changed its name, and perhaps concept, to Mikuni, which is located at level 3 of Fairmont hotel, accessible from a corner of Raffles City.

While it was still Inagiku, I visited it a couple of times, usually choosing to order their sashimi platters or shabu-shabu or sukiyaki sets. Food was good but pricey, and back then the decor of the restaurant was that of a typical Japanese restaurant of the old days, boasting homely colours of light ply wood (I think, something beigey-yellow) that just make me think of many of the eateries I have been to in Japan. When it underwent a renovation the interior got many shades darker, the walls became dark brown/black. I think it was meant to give the restaurant a more updated and modern vibe, or perhaps the change in name or management fuelled the need to overhaul its appearance, to give it a look that is more aligned with the pricing of the food.

I went there once after that and felt that the food quality dropped, or maybe it was just the ambience or somewhat that made the food taste a bit different. Anyhow, that was also where I went a couple of weeks ago for my birthday treat! This time round, I think the food was better, maybe the years in-between this and my prior visit gave them the chance to finetune and improve the culinary skills of the chefs, or maybe it was just how I felt on both occasions.

Their menu is pretty comprehensive but it makes the ordering difficult because if you would like to have a few items that includes sashimi, then you have to think about your budget too. Haha. My friend was able to get a discount off the food so it was well-worth it for us!

Complimentary appetiser. I cannot remember what this is but it’s thin and crispy and tasted like it contained prawn.

Instead of sashimi, we ordered the mixed sushi plate. I liked that the sushi is more fish than rice, and of course the ingredients were really fresh! But perhaps we had too much rice, because in addition to this platter we also had a maki plate.

But this was really good, avocado and I think yellow tail (one of my favourites). And with sushi/sashimi, the wasabi just makes it even better.

Being a big tempura fan, we also had a mixed tempura plate, which consists seafood (prawn and fish slices) and assoted vegetables.

There was an additional grilled or barbequed pork rib that we ordered, that we only had a bit of and were unable to finish because we were so full from all the rice stuff. So a tip for those who have small appetites, don’t take too much carbo, or maybe that’s not really a tip, we probably overestimated ourselves. :p

The pork rib was nicely done and not too oily but it had lots of fatty parts in it that I think most people would really enjoy; we packed that back home but I don’t know why I don’t have a photo of it here.

Since we were already bursting we decided to skip dessert but anyway there was a complimentary matcha mochi dessert, that also came with cubes of azuki sticky cake (rice cake maybe). This was good because it wasn’t sweet, the sweetness of the red bean was complemented well with the slight traces of bitterness from the matcha in perhaps its natural unsweetened form. Nice way to end the meal! And thanks for the treat, my friend!

DisneySea

It was a cold Monday morning as we prepared to head to the Disney resort, but first up, we stopped by Tully’s coffee for breakfast. By far, I think their matcha latte (according to my friend, and I’ve tried it on several occasions as well) is one of the better ones offered by the various coffee chains in Japan. And the great news is that Tully’s has opened a branch in SG! The first outlet opened not too long ago at West Coast Road in Ginza Plaza I think (goodness, how long ago was it that I actually popped into that place), and the next one to open in about 2 weeks’ time, based on an article in MyPaper, in Far East Plaza (not too sure if it’s Plaza or Square, because it was in chinese, “yuan dong guang chang”). But I’ve read some reviews at yum.sg that it’s a disappointment though. Anyhow, I’m waiting for the FEP (I hope) outlet to open!

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From Shinjuku, we took the JR Yamanote line to Tokyo station, then changed to the Keiyo line to Maihama (舞浜) station. I think there is a shorter way if you take the Chuo Rapid from Shinjuku to Tokyo, but we weren’t too sure so we opted for the safer albeit slower Yamanote instead.

Check out the cute Mickey mouse train!

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Our tickets. It costs 5,800 per person for either TDS or TDL resort, which I thought was quite pricey for me, because I’m not a big fan of rides, and I didn’t exactly spend a whole day in it to make our money’s worth. Perhaps this wasn’t a good season to visit, so I’ll take note to go to TDL in a hopefully better season next time!

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smiles

I look like I don’t have a neck do I? Haha.

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I love how this silver key looks. If only my house key could look like this, but not the size though. I wonder how I could even lug that thing around. :p

25th

Following are some random shots of TDS. My photos just do not do the place justice; it truly does make one experience a sense of surrealism and there’s this whimsical air about the whole place somewhat. Although I only saw Pinocchio and another character, without Mickey and Minnie and the whole lot of other Disney characters, I still feel the Disney magic somehow. And oh, I bought myself a pair of Minnie ear muffs, which I suspect will never get to see the light of day again. Haha, it’s quite subtle, black muffs with the red Minnie ribbon on either side, but still I think it’s too cute for me. Besides, I think it isn’t really made to keep my ears nicely warm like what ear muffs are supposed to. At 1,300 JPY for that, I really cannot complain too much!

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back-in-venice

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The Mermaid Lagoon

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For the first time in my life, I actually sat on what could be considered a thrill ride, aka mini roller coaster. It was over in a few minutes, without the typical roller coaster waiting-to-descend-into-hell kinda plunge, but there were a couple of quick sharp corners that made me feel as though I was about to fly out of the seat. Thankfully, as we were both bundled in thick coats and squeezed into the tiny seat, I guess we couldn’t have just flown out could we?

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Arabian Palace

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Where we sat on a boat ride that took us through Sinbad’s voyage, narrated in Japanese. Haha. That was an eye-opener – Sinbad can speak Japanese! Woohoo!

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There was a scary ride there which throngs of people were queueing up for. But I’m the scardey cat who shuns from scary rides. Hee.

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This reminds me more of The Mummy rather than Indiana Jones, because I wasn’t ever really into that, cos I was still young then?

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This next place as we moved along, reminded me of London somewhat.

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Do all ships look the same, or does this scream Titanic? (Just change the letters reading ‘Columbia’ to ‘Titanic’)

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Right smack in the centre of this picture is the Tower of Terror, which is the famed scariest ride in TDS, which of course we passed over, but it had the longest queue I think!

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Venice revisited?

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Night fell early, and it was absolutely freezing already at this point. I had my gloves on but my fingers were already numb. Overall, I think it was quite an enjoyable visit to DisneySea Resort but I wished the weather was better, and if there was more sunshine perhaps I could have turned in better photos, and maybe my mood wouldn’t be so PMSsy. Sorry for being such a bitch but bad weather somehow always swings my mood the wrong way.

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It’s always a chore and a challenge for me to think of places to eat at. So after a lot of pacing about various places, we finally settled for tendon at the same place we met Jade for lunch 2 days ago. Nothing beats a warm meal at the end of a cold day!

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the first day of tokyo

Alrighty, I shall attempt to start and complete this series of blog posts on my recent trip to Tokyo! I’ll break them up into parts, cos I still find loading photos onto wordpress such a bitch, so I shall have to do it slowly…

airport

The airport at about 8-ish in the morning, with dark clouds shrouding the sky. It was pretty cold, but thankfully there wasn’t any strong wind so the sub-10 temperature was still bearable.

enroute

Bad photo angle. But anyhow, that’s the bespectacled me again, as always, on overnight/long flights; with barely 2 hours of sleep.

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Jade brought us to this tempura place at Shinjuku, basement 1 below Odakyu (right turn into this food area after descending a flight of stairs from Agnes B. on the street level). This set costs 1,995 JPY (there was more tempura than pictured, cos it was served as and when they finished frying), and it was really delicious. The tempura wasn’t thickly-coated with flour and it was so crisp and fresh; best part is, you get to sit at the counter and watch as the chef slices up the unagi, with a couple of slick movements and flicks of his sharp knife.

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The room was finally ready for us when we returned at about 2pm, so after the checkin was done, we went up to our room on the 17th floor. Although it’s rather tiny, I must say it’s rather well-equipped and for 13,000 JPY (excl taxes of 5%) a night, it’s really well worth the money!

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Doing the obligatory hotel-room shots. The toilet and bath.

kitchen

The stove area, with a fridge, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, hot water flask, and there’s even a rice-cooker and washing machine! But since it was only a short stay, we probably just used the flask and fridge. Check out Oakwood Shinjuku if any of you are interested. It’s about 7-10 mins walk from the JR Shinjuku station (west exit near Odakyu), and conveniently located nearby are combinis and F&B outlets like Tully’s Coffee, Excelsior Cafe, Freshness Burger, Yoshinoya, and various other local food places.

room

The bed could be a bit squeezy for 2 although it was quite ok for both of us since we don’t really turn and toss that much. But if both are bringing large suitcases, then maybe it might be a bit crammed, so you could consider taking stuff out of the suitcase and keeping it away inside the cabinet.

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The room came with a balcony that afforded a nice view of this side of the city at sunset. There’s a Sky Lounge on the 32nd floor that offers a splendid view as well!

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Night view of Shinjuku Lumine from across the road.

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Dinner was settled at this fast-food place along the way back to the apartment, where you dunked coins into a vending machine, and get your food served minutes later. The katsu-don, though wasn’t fantastic, was acceptable to me at least. I think most food places in Japan serve pretty decent Japanese food, and the best thing is that, they don’t cost an arm or a leg.

spoils

And… the cute little stuffed dolls I got from the UFO machines. I managed to control myself on this trip and didn’t over-spend on them! 😀