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Archive for the ‘Japan Days’ Category

A walk around the food hall at Japanese department stores and you can find the regular daifuku with anko filling (Japanese red bean paste mochi) year round. Depending on season, one may even spot some sakura, yomogi and even warabi mochi fairly easily too. As far as I know, presumably because of the addition of strawberry hence making it far more perishable than the plain red bean ones, ichigo daifuku is still pretty much a rarity here.

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Korean strawberries greeted me whenever I step into my local grocery store these days and I am missing this amazing combination of sweet and tart of red bean and strawberry that I so often devoured when in Japan so I decided to make some of my own the other day. It wasn’t wrapped as nicely as I wanted but it tasted every bit like I hope it would be.

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Whenever the hub goes on a biz trip to Japan, a box of this Castella cake is a must, and only the ones from FUKUSAYA will do. This afternoon, while the little one was napping, the much anticipated crunch of the sugar crystals at the bottom of the cake paired with a cup of green tea was quite simply, bliss.

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And while we were at it, I decided I must have champon that night! ‘Cept for the pink kamaboko (which I substituted with regular fish cake), cabbage, bean sprouts,onions, black fungus, mushroom, prawn, squid, pork slices- all checked. Cravings quelled alright! ちゃんぽんの作り方、わすれないだよ。じもとのかまぼこ(ピンクではないやつ)を使って、キャベッツ、もやし、玉ネギ、きくらげ、椎茸、えび、いか、豚肉をすべて入れて、ちゃんぽんを作りました。なつかしい味ですね~

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Now this is what I call a real holiday. Great food, wonderful weather, tranquil–albeit slightly more touristy than I recalled when I first visited this place some 7 years back– countryside, it was nevertheless the highlight of the entire trip. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much here that we extended another night. Look on and you’ll understand why!

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Japan fall Yufin 2012

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Yufuin, we miss you already and you bet we will be back, someday!

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Almost 6 months late and before the next batch of photos from our upcoming vacay come in, here I am uploading some treasured shots from our last holiday in Japan.

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We survived the 6.5hrs red eye flight despite DZ puking three times on the plane and landed at Fukuoka International Airport in the early morning. After a short break at Hakata station, we journeyed on and arrived at Huis Ten Bosch, an unlikely choice of destination had it not been to meet these folks.

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Japan 2012 Nagasaki

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After months of looking at his photos on Facebook, they finally saw the little one in person. Our first meeting after 2 years, though short, was also a very sweet and meaningful reunion for everyone. DZ warmed up quickly to his Japanese grandparents and even responded to requests for “cheesy smile” or “ii kao” in Japanese, what a fast little learner! I miss these folks and how I wish we live a little closer to each other…

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Our passes entitled us to unlimited rides and round and round we went since it was one of the few more age appropriate and ‘gentler’ rides in the park. I love these shots so much, love the colour and his slightly bewildered expression.

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And when the boys were having their siesta, Mom and I wasted no time to do some exploration. As always, she’s game to be my model.

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What can I say? I heart heart heart the windmill series. The lighting was perfect in the evening, and DZ was in a happy and cooperative mood. The joy on their faces permanently etched in time.

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2 days later we ran out of things to do and see in this entirely man-made amusement/flower resort modeled after a Dutch palace. So its bye-bye Huis Ten Bosch, guess we won’t be back anytime soon!

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Kyushu Gal

I am amazed at my own speed and precision when it comes to certain decision-making.

OCT 13-15

HUIS TEN BOSCH, NAGASAKI– the 152 hectare Dutch themed flower resort in Nagasaki prefecture. While the shops will be swarmed with imported cheeses at eye-popping price tags, you bet I’d be fuelling away on local delights. After all, it’s not always I am back in the land of Champon, sara udon and Fukusaya castella cakes.

OCT 16-18

YUFUIN, OITA– A most lovely onsen town with a good mix of cafes, museums and quaint little stores. 6 years later, the allure of Mount Yufu and Kinrinko still beckon. Where yakiniku and chanpon nabe await. I. must. soak. in. hot. spring. EVERYDAY.

OCT 19-23

FUKUOKA
– Gateway to Kyushu and the only one of the seven prefectures in the region with an international airport. Five days may seem a lot to spend here, but given that it was all about transiting at Hakata station and shopping at Tenjin in the past, it’d be nice to slow down and appreciate what the city has to offer. Plus, the newly refurbished and revamped JR HAKATA CITY is good enough reason to stay a few more days. That, and trips to Yanagibashi for the freshest seafood and evening strolls and picnic at Ohori Park.

Krisflyer redemption, checked. Hotel reservation double checked. The only task remaning is to get our hands on the JR Northern Kyushu 5-day pass upon arrival and we are set. And of course shopping for some Singapore souvenirs and local goodies.

(Photo credits: the World Wide Web)

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God bless Narao

Nestled in the Goto Islands is Narao, a small sleepy fishing village, my hometown in Japan.

Returning for the first time since I left 3 years ago, Narao is exactly the way I remember it. The sea and mountains beautiful and enchanting; the people warm and undemanding.

September would have been a tough month had it not been for here. Two weeks of fine weather, fresh air, good food and great company certainly did wonders to the souls.

Sometimes, what we need is a simple return to basics and in a place like Narao, one can find plenty of that.

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Bits of Goto Islands

And so for a year, I was contented to glean what I could about life in this country from an isolated corner.

For many, Japan conjures up images of the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, classy cultural heart of Kyoto, snowy Hokkaido or perhaps sunny Okinawa?

An archipelago of approximately 140 islands in the East China Sea, off the western coast of Kyushu and administratively part of Nagasaki prefecture, Goto Rettou (五島列島) derived its name from the five large islands of Fukuejima, Hisakajima, Narushima, Wakamatsujima, and Nakadorijima (where I was based).

Geographically, with the exception of Okinawa in the south, the Goto island chain is the westernmost point in Japan. Nearer the Korean Peninsula and China than Japan proper, language, food, and culture in this part are substantially influenced by these neighbouring states.

頭ヶ島教会 Church of Kashiragashima

Because of its remote location, Christians hiding in various parts of Nagasaki fled to Goto islands to avoid persecution during a time when Christianity was prohibited by the Tokugawa government. The continuous practice of the religion in secret over time gave rise to kakure kirishitan (隠れキリシタン) meaning “hidden Christian“. Today, the relatively large Christian population and hundreds of big and small chapels dotting the islands stand as a testament to this violent episode in history.

Part of the Saikai National Park, the islands boast dramatic scenery of pristine beaches and rugged coastline against looming mountains. No matter how many times we’ve driven passed, I can never get tired of these sights. Pictures and words do not do justice to the sheer magnificence of it all. This, you really got to see with your own eyes.

西海国立公園 Saikai National Park

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Measuring approximately 40km north to south by 20km east to west at its widest point, Nakadorijima, the second largest island is only slightly smaller than Singapore. With a population just hovering above the 20,000 figure, as compared to the close to five millions in SG, chancing upon gorgeous, secluded beaches on the island is as easy as walking into a busy department store on a weekend back home.

feast from the sea at えび屋

Previously, sashimi means sake, maguro and hamachi only. Now, raw fish also comes in the form of iwashi, isaki, katsuo and aji. I’ve never been a great fan but the ones you get around here are pretty darn awesome. As are fresh uni or sea urchin, which tasted rich, creamy and almost cheese like. Ise ebi or Japanese spiny lobster miso soup? Simply out of this world.

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Japanese people in every nook and cranny pride themselves on their local produce and delicacies and Goto is no exception. Well-loved by the locals are these thin and exceptionally smooth Goto udon that are good in hot broth as well as chilled dipping sauce.

Initial apprehension about its physical isolation and logistical inconvenience soon gave way to gradual appreciation of its remote peacefulness. For on this island exist some of the warmest people I’ve ever met and it was here that some strongest friendships ever bred.

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