The Straight Line

2 years ago, I started this blog as a travel diary when I first mustered up my courage to move to Japan by myself. It wasn’t easy. I graduated from the top university, landed myself a job in the public sector and made a stable income and my folks happy. I was going according to what they wanted my life to be and possibly what most Singaporeans do. I wasn’t unhappy with my life but I wasn’t contented too.

Every time I open my Facebook page, all I could see were pictures of my friends in some place not in Singapore, having fun (I know Facebook creates these deceptive imagery because no one posts pictures of their ugly sides). I was envious.

One more thing to note was, I had never left Singapore until I was 21. Yes, you might not believe it because nowadays kids in Primary 1 already been to Tokyo Disneyland and they can even write essays on it. The first place that was stamped on my passport was Malaysia, because my friends wanted to celebrate me getting out of Singapore so they took me to Johor Bahru. My 2nd country that I visited was Japan and then Japan.. Japan.. Japan almost every year.

My first Japan trip was a homestay trip organized by the school and it was memorable. You might ask why I have never been able to get out of small squeezy Singapore, well, the answer is simple. My parents could never afford to take me on trips. I have never been on a holiday with my family which kinda cultivated my character where I like to go solo or with friends I guess.

Well, you always want what you don’t have. I just had a promotion at my job in the civil service and I was also seeing a guy at the time. It was fine and everything was going well but it just didn’t feel right.

One night, I lay in bed and I tried to recall what I have done in the past 2 years at my job and in my life since university. Shockingly, nothing came to mind. I still remembered how I broke out in cold sweat and my palms became clammy as I tried so hard to flush out my memories.

Nothing.

And then I pictured myself that if tomorrow I were to die, I would be stiff like this on my deathbed with no memories to cling on to for the past 2 years. I decided that I cannot live my life like this anymore. I quit my job and the guy that I was seeing then even told me that I was stupid. I flipped my life over and my parents were unhappy with my decision. It felt like the whole world was objecting to me destabilizing my stable world.

Even so, I went to Japan.

I lived there for half a year, studying the first 4 months in a school and then worked for the remainder 2 months. It was a whole new experience for me, living on my own.

Then by pure luck, I managed to get a cruise ship job with one of the cruise ship companies who owns the most innovative ships. And my life changed.

360 degrees.

In 2 years, I went to Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe (backpacking), Eastern and Western Caribbean. I have been to the most beautiful beaches you could possibly lay your eyes on. Every day, it was a different place. Every week, I meet new people, make new friends from countries I used to hear of but never been and never know how it’s like.

I have learned so much and my life is no longer a straight line like it used to be. It’s now a curve with hyperbolas, twists, dips etc.

So, what I’m trying to say that is.. take that first step.

Because you will never know where that first step would lead to.

 

 

 

 

My Life as a Helper-san (Part 1: House)

It has been almost a week since i came back to Singapore.

My 2 months in Hokkaido flew by really fast…! Well, a lot of people were curious about what i did while i was there so i thought I’ll give you a little intro to the inn that i went to and a little insight on the life of a helper-san.

Let’s take a little tour around the inn.

The carpark
Andro (dog) and his house
Firewood stacked neatly outside front door.
Entering the front door..
Walking to the dining area
Dining area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bench area attached to the dining space
Going down the corridor…
The wash basins on the left. The door on the right is the female toilet.
Room ‘Chamomile’. Japanese style tatami room
Room ‘Borage’. ボリジ  Dormitory room.
Moving up to level 2..

Room ‘Sakuranbo’. Twin room with outdoor terrace attached.

You can see stars from this room!!

Outdoor terrace
A common area at level 2 with huge collection of manga and novels.
Room ‘Sumomo’. Single room tatami style

Well, the rooms are all not shown here. We were cleaning up after the guests had checked out so i only managed to take those that have been cleaned. By the way, i clean all the rooms on 2nd floor!!

Going up this flight of stairs would lead to the helpers’ floor. It’s the attic actually.

I shall not disclose our sleeping area cos i think it would be quite rude to Mayu-chan since she’s sharing the space as well.

But you can imagine it yourself… it’s the part of the house just right under the slanted roof.

Now to the outside…

Walking to the backyard..

Nao-san and Mayu-chan working hard at the ‘house’
Mayu-chan hard at work!
Andro (pronounced as AN-DO-RO) eating whatever fertilizer that we throw onto the soil

The fertilizer is actually mochi rice flour… And also the husk from the brown rice.

looking out from the ‘house’..
Our new halloween deco!!
Smiley mayu-chan

So here’s the introduction to the place that have kindly put me up for the past 2 months. It’s a really great house!! (it’s huge and warm)

Actually no matter how good the house is, if the people there wasn’t welcoming to me, i wouldn’t have had such a good experience. I really must thank Nao-san, Kazu-san, Mizuki-chan, Mayu-chan and all the guests that have made my stay memorable here. A pity that I left in a hurry on the day i depart so i didn’t manage to take any photo with the family on THAT day but i took plenty throughout the 2 months.

My work consisted of helping out in the mornings and evenings for meals and housekeeping and we have the afternoons off. So i woke up every morning at 6.30 am and start work at 7. Housekeeping starts right after we have taken our breakfast and tidied up the kitchen and ends at about 11+. Usually we have lunch at home or we eat out sometimes and then it’s free time alllll the wayyy.
Work resumes at either 4pm or 6pm and Mayu-chan and i rotate our shifts. Our evening usually ends at about 9pm for the first shift or 9.30-10 for the second shift.

It’s hard work cleaning, i must say. But all i gotta say it’s one of the most satisfying jobs i have ever done in my entire life.

Stay tune for Part 2: Meals!!!

Btw, in case you’re wondering why i stopped posting pictures of myself on this blog, it’s cos i gained like at least 3-4kg throughout my stay here. I’m too well-fed so my face kinda bloated up like a pig and i thought i looked hideous on pictures. -.-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ukishima Shitsugen (浮島湿原)

The weather was superrrr fine one day that we just HAD to go out if not we would feel we wasted our time.

That day, we had Hashimoto-san staying with us so the 6 of us went out together! Hashimoto-san runs a business hotel in Tokyo which i think is doing quite well and has quite a reputation.

The pictures turn out really great that day so i have lots to show!!

Hashimoto-san, Mayu-chan

The nature was too serene. I played girl’s generation’s new song Galaxy Supernova while walking. HAHAHA.

Well, there was a signboard that says beware of bears so i thought the song could replace the bell to scare them away.

End up,  Mayu-chan and i were humming to the song! LOL

Hashimoto-san’s pose!

The trees are just too pretty, i just keep snapping away!!

Then we took a hike up the waterfall area near Sounkyou (層雲峡) where there was momiji everywhere.

The forest was so green, i thought it would be a nice place to shoot an mv or something.

And then we lunched at this cosy little cottage cafe – Mitsumata Sansou (三股山荘).

The weather was really good!

Log cabin furnishing.

My Lunch
Mayu-chan’s lunch
Dessert – Pumpkin chiffon cake and Pear cheesecake

After that we drove off to somewhere and i slept all the way throughout until we reached someplace with a panoramic view.

Home sweet home.

See what’s for dinner!!!

Genghis khan….. !!!!

Mayu-chan trying to disturb me

 

 

Autumn Leaves

I have never understood the idea of enjoying the autumn leaves.

So, what do you exactly do in order to enjoy the autumn leaves? C’mon, it’s just leaves on trees turning red, that’s all.

This, coming from a Singaporean who has lived her entire 24 years of life in an evergreen city where leaves just turn yellow and fall off.

On the other hand, Japanese people are rather into autumn-leaf viewing. They call it 紅葉(kouyou) which translates into red leaves. Nao-san is one example of someone who super loves kouyou.

One fine day, three of us, Nao-san, Kazu-san and i went to Bougakudai (望岳台) and Hakuginsou (白銀荘)onsen. Nao-san and i thought that we needed some exercise so the two of us hiked a little from Bougakudai to the onsen. Man, it was really long…… I slipped once. HAHA and crossed a river. Gosh. I mean i jumped across a river.

Alright, some photos of autumn leaves!

Random couple in foreground. Look at the autumn leaves!

I climbed past this huge boulder!!
See the difference between lava-covered and non-lava-covered mountain
You could tell she would roll on the autumn leaves if she could. Check out her smile!

 

Onsen Meguri (Part 2)

And so today is the last day of our long trip..

Our breakfast at hokkaido hotel:

relax..! i love my pairing of white sneakers and jeans.

We were in Obihiro (帯広) well, because

1) Nao-san wanted to stay in Hokkaido Hotel (and also because how much our guests raved to us about it)

2) i want to eat the famous sweet potato….!!

It’s not just an ORDINARY sweet potato. I saw it on tv once and i had remembered it since.

The shop name is Cranberry. It’s a trendy sweet shop with very reasonable prices for its cakes and pastries.

The cake set costs 400 yen which includes a drink and a cake of your choice! Gosh, it’s cheap, to be honest. You can NEVER find this kinda price in Singapore.

Nao-san, Ogawa-san, Masako-san, Mayu-chan

So of course, all of us took the cake set.

And we just felt so full after eating so much for just breakfast. Nao-san suggested us to take a stroll at Fukuhara Sansou (福原山荘) and enjoy the autumn season.

I do not know the story behind this place but there is only one house in this entire wilderness (well, not exactly) and it must be owned by someone by the name of Fukuhara (whom i supposed is super rich since there is no one staying here and it looks like a holiday villa).

Next, we took a really long drive about an hour plus to an onsen. We went to Osoushi onsen (オソウシ温泉) but i kept saying it wrongly as おそろしい温泉 (osoroshii) which meant scary onsen. HAHA

When we reached the carpark, the signature dog of the onsen Ken-chan came out to greet us right at the car door.

Ken-chan, the dog

Seriously, this onsen is quite wild. Well, this onsen is well-know for its high pH of  10+ which is supposed to feel super smooth on your skin but i don’t know how true is that. The onsen water is rather lukewarm and the rotenburo is like swimming pool temperature. And it is quite run-down. When you step out for the rotenburo, you’re practically stepping on just a tentage sheet placed on the grass with all the fallen leaves on the sheet and it is slippery and ….. wild (cos you’re surrounded by trees). It is quite unkempt actually, i mean, relative to all the onsens i have been to.

We drove off and stopped by some genghis khan (which is the name of mutton here even though it is the name of the Mongolian ruler…) for dinner.

If you love korean bbq, you will love this. ジェンギスカン (genghis khan)

Alright, thanks for reading all my backdated posts!!!!

Onsen Meguri (Part 1)

The inn closed for 4 days and the three of us, Nao-san, Mayu-chan and I plus two regulars of the inn, Masako-san and Ogawa-san took a holiday together around Hokkaido. Up until the day right before the trip, nothing was confirmed. No accommodation was booked. It was SUPER SPONTANEOUS.

But that’s what made it exciting!

Day 1

We first stopped over at Clover Cafe near Asahikawa airport for ice cream. As the farm was just right next to this place, the ice cream is very fresh!

This is gelato by the way.

Metou Onsen (芽登温泉)

Our accommodation for the night. A big tatami room for four ladies. Ogawa-san is just next door with a room same size as this but alone! What luxury. Of cos we went over to his room for drinks and chit chat all night.

Nao-san, Mayu-chan and Masako-san

Some effects of this onsen water

Basically, metou onsen has quite a long history. It’s water is famous for its effects on skin which really does make it smoother!

Dinner
Breakfast

Shimafukuro, a kind of owl unique to hokkaido can be spotted in this area!

Wow, i didn’t know it is THIS endangered. http://www.bfh.jp/en/theme/theme_searchdetail/80000888/

Day 2

Yama no Suizokukan (山の水族館)

We visited this aquarium which is said to house almost all the types of local fishes in this area.

Tiger puffer fish: Wheeeeeeee!
Wheeeeeeee!!
*poke poke*
Seeing goldfish through a kaleidoscope
Pig snout turtle

There is this huge clock tower that plays music once it reaches a certain time of the day.

At the end of it, a huge (ugly) bird emerges.

Soon, it was lunch time. After looking at so much fishes, i feel like eating a fish!

And so i did.

Hokke set.

Please do not underestimate this Hokke. It is the largest Hokke i have ever seen. It took 3 people to finish this fish!

Everyone ordered shio-yakisoba EXCEPT ME.

Shio-yakisoba, famous in Kitami

Doesn’t it resemble Hokkien mee??? AHahhaha

Passed by a fish market.

Shishamo (unbelievably cheap)

Our onsen for the day was Maure sansou (マウレ山荘). It is a majestic hotel with superb onsen!! The water is very nuru-nuru (as what you say in Japanese for the slight slimy texture)

Maure sansou
Nao-san: We should get something like this too!!

Maure is a word from the Ainu language. This hotel actually originates from a church (with stained glass). Inside, it’s european style decor with tall ceilings and majestic sofas. Quite posh.

After leaving Maure, we set off for our accommodation for the night: Saromanianne (サロマ二庵)

The car ride was super long…..

We took a dormitory room in this house. Super cosy!

Dinner:

The seafood is really fresh!

The owners of this inn is actually good friends with the owners of my inn and their style is actually quite similar. The house is entirely made of wood too so it’s like a wooden cottage.

More pics of the house.

Our room name, kami-fuusen, which means paper sailing boat. (So cute!)

Saromanianne’s owner.
His wife
Dinner table

Its massive collection of manga
Entrance

How sunny it was!

The owner told us that near here, there is a kind of red grass that only turns red during this autumn period which is very beautiful.

And really it did!!

Mayu-chan model shot.

And then we drove away and passed by this lake.

And an old steam train which is no longer in use anymore.

I went in and it was full of dust and spiderwebs. With spiders as big as my palms. Scary.

And so it was because the weather was sooooo good, Nao-san suggested that we climb a mountain for autumn leaves appreciation. And we headed to Mount Mokotoyama.

But along the way, we passed by this cheese factory kind of place which makes fresh cheeses and sells cheesy food (literally).

Higashi mokoto nyuurakukan (東藻琴乳酪館)

Free cheese tasting
Best cheese soft cream i’ve ever tasted

And stone oven pizzas:

Masako-san is happy with her milk soft cream.

This was lunch and so after that we set off for yama nobori!

The fog. Look at the white sky!!

At first it was alright. But it got worse…

At the peak!
Nao-san, radiating with happiness.

Time for dinner!

The wife of the owner of saromanianne earlier on recommended us this cafe.

Interesting decor!

By the way it was still too early for dinner. So i called it my tea time. The rest ate a full meal though.

My Satsuma-imo (Japanese sweet potato) apple cake!

The croissant sandwich for both Ogawa-san and Nao-san.

And Mayu-chan and Masako-san’s Mabo-don.

Mayu-chan modelling for my camera.

At night, we checked into Hokkaido hotel! I had no idea that this hotel is one of the top 10 hotels in Japan… apparently it’s expensive.

Hokkaido hotel has like …. 4 huge carparks…

And then we went to Yatai-mura (屋台村). We went to this kushi stall which your food is all fried right in front of you after you order.

shop name: かめちゃん (kame-chan)

It is DAMN GOOD.

It was raining heavily and the stall was packed. We were lucky that we could still fit in.

A salaryman speaking in osaka dialect treated me to some natto gyoza after knowing i’m a Singaporean. HA! Actually he just wanted to see me squirm at eating natto.

WHICH I DID.

for continuation of story, see onsen meguri (part 2).

Asahiyama Zoo

This post is gonna be about my visit to the famous Asahiyama Zoo!!!

Apparently this zoo is a very popular place to work in as told to me by Mayu-chan. It’s like among the top few zoos in Japan.

Alright, i just have to spam some zoo pictures now.

Orang Utan asking for food
Orang Utan asking for food AGAIN
and AGAIN
Orang Utan’s son gets food
Shimabukuro
Super cute owl which i dunno its name
Sleeping fox.
Kapibara
My companions for the day – Mayu-chan & Occhan
Seal

I remember that day after seeing the seals, i told Mayu-chan that i suddenly have a craving for sausage.

Seals during ‘Mogu Mogu’ time (feeding time)
Shirokuma
Grizzly bear. I think.
I’m guessing this is a puma.
Spot the snow wolves!
Story behind the wolves

Actually i kinda pity the wolves because they are always the bad guys in stories. Poor wolves… can never shake off their bad reputation.

But they are actually kinda cool to me.

Alright, end of zoo outing! Actually it was a pretty short visit but i remembered the 3 of us were all pretty tired cos it’s huge! We didn’t go to all parts of the zoo due to time and energy constraints. Some days later, a HK couple at the inn told us about the train ride in the zoo which is super cute because the seats were all decorated like animals. So it’s like while you’re sitting on a polar bear’s lap in the train with all the fur and it’s head right behind your head! Haha… even Mayu-chan didn’t even know about this train thing!