Archive for March, 2009

so cute!

March 24, 2009

W is away in Hong Kong and he knows I’ve been working pretty hard lately, so he sent me this which indeed lightened up my day. It is so cute. Check it out!


it must be freedom

March 18, 2009

If you ask me what I seek in life (in terms of personal development), I think I found my answer.

It must be freedom.

I personally find freedom most difficult to attain. Freedom from perceptions, prejudices and social constructs accumulated within over the years. Realising also that we do have the freedom to make a choice. Any choice.

It can be difficult to break free.

But today, I did it, when I thought I cannot. It was a fine line. But, when you step over and see the light, knowing that things can change because you changed it, you can never turn back. It was a small matter but it had an amazing impact. It felt great.

I had achieved my first milestone and I believe I would be making more.

what if ‘what you’re good at is not what you want’

March 15, 2009

Tough question isn’t it.

Watched a cute movie ‘Detroit Metal City’ this afternoon. It’s a simple and funny movie about sweet and gentle Negishi who believes deeply in his philosophy – ‘no music no dreams’.


Negishi’s only dream is to sing about love and hope and he wants to spread happiness to those who hear his music. He moved to Tokyo from the countryside (Oita) wanting to live a ‘trendy’ lifestyle *think muji style*. He composes sweet love songs and sings on the streets hoping to be discovered. But alas, his talents lie in creating loud pumping Death Metal Music with morbid lyrics and he soon became the hottest most reverred Death Metal Lead Singer in Japan. Haha. The movie was funny as it illustrates Negishi’s struggles with his alter ego, alternating between checked shirts, sweaters and mushroom haircut by day and blonde hair, white face with black mascara and lipstick by night and finally to accepting his talent in the end.

And you know what. I actually ENJOYED the Heavy Metal Music.

The complex guitar and drumworks involved in the movie (I CAN NEVER recall the tune) was pretty awesome. I thought the music in the movie was cool (minus the morbid language). Having played the GuitarHero on the Wii for the past week. I am CONVINCED these artists who created these complex compositions with the drum and guitar must be geniuses. Compose technically difficult scores and appeal to an audience. Not easy at all.

Back to the point. Over a post movie drink, W asked me the same question that was resonating in my brain throughout the movie. ‘What if the thing I am good at is not what I want?’ I began to imagine that perhaps my design inclination was more suited towards corporate skyscrapers and shopping centres than a warm family house. I shiver. I think it would be torturous. I decided that music was different. I had always believed that regardless the genre of music, good music has the amazing ability to move the soul. It’s effect is more evident. I am not too sure about my line of work.

I think it is still a long way to go before I have my answer. What about you?

about organic food

March 6, 2009

I was just reading up on Organic Food the other day because after the surgery, I was pumped with fish only to have my doctor tell me that fish may be the most polluted food source on earth since anything everything gets dumped into the sea *faint*. There had been so much written about conventional food (hormone jabs, pesticides, weird feeds) that no one really knows what to eat now. Gosh.

Anyways, my personal verdict of my readings is this. Keeping cost and nutritional value in mind and until some other reports come along to debunk it, it seems like the Sakura Chicken aka ‘the kampung chicken’ but raised on Japanese methods, free range and free of hormone jabs is the safest and cheapest meat source to have at the moment. As for vegetable source. The following video clip from boing boing should help. Haha.

in life all these things are connected

March 6, 2009

‘All you young people out there, bear note. The things you are fired for are often the things in later life that you are celebrated and given life time achievements for, so don’t worry when you find your ideas are put down. It’s just because they are new or against the grain.’

the trainride

March 4, 2009


It was a special trainride for me.

When we travelled from Sapporo to Tokyo for the final leg, we took the 16 hour Hokutosei Train. We had bought our dinner/breakfast bentos from Daimaru Foodmarket and hot canned drinks from the vending machine at the train station for a feast in our cabin.

I was REALLY excited because I have NEVER taken a sleeper train.

I had always liked the idea of sleeper trains. A private space all to ourselves where we can talk about anything everything over a can of hot coffee, play any music and eat messily as vast fields, farms, ocean horizons, woods, mountains, small towns, cities, cars on the highway, whizz past. As I look onto the cars travelling in the moonless night illuminated only by their headlights (travelling at equidistant!), I can’t help but wonder where they were going and how it is like to drive and travel alone.


So after finishing our bentos, we left the spotlight on and W played his mp3s (my fav is akeboshi & chaba). Unlike what I had imagined, we didn’t chat till daybreak but it was one of those rare simple moments where we just sat on our beds, watch the changing landscapes go by with our favourite music playing on.

first winter

March 3, 2009


This is my first REAL winter.

It was a 12 day trip to Tohoku (Northern Japan) and Hokkaido planned by W. We went to really obscure but beautiful places, usually patronised by the local Japanese. It often involves multiple train transfers and shuttle buses but it was worth it. Coincidentally, we chanced upon 2 Japanese ladies and an old Japanese guy onsen hopping with us, taking the same trains and buses.

I had wanted to chat with them, to know where they come from, why they are there and where their next destination would be. But we ended up taking photos for each other due to our limited vocabulary. Haha.

I have NO IDEA how W found these places.

I only see Winter on television. Maybe i was fortunate and came to the right place at the right time. As we stood still surrounded by trees, mountains and falling snow, the world stopped too. It was quiet, peaceful and it was just the 2 of us.

Tsurunoyu Onsen


W told me Tsurunoyu was actually a Samurai Honjin or inn for the samurai (tatched roof structure on the left). Legend has it that a crane healed its injured leg in the sulphurous hot spring and hence the beginning of hot spring baths and ryokans.

Reservation 6 months in advance is advised. Fortunately for us, we managed to secure 2 nights. However, we would have to switch from the big to a small room and you would have to go to the communal dining hall for dinner and share the same rice pot, which I preferred. It is there I see Japanese ladies kneel and eat for an hour. Truly amazing.


A little stream runs through the Ryokan seperating the sleep areas and the beautiful hot baths. We truly appreciate the hot baths. It was SO COLD my feet hurts. The hot pools are the only ways to relieve the pain. Although there was an open bath for women only. The most beautiful spot was the mixed bath area. After dinner, we soaked in the hot bath under falling snow and stars. It was magical.


The hotpot is their specialty with homemade yam balls and mountain vegetables. Oishi.

Aoni Onsen


Aoni Onsen was more secluded than Tsurunoyu and situated at the bottom of the valley of Mt Hakkoda. It is the only onsen in the area unlike Tsurunoyu Onsen and was founded by a handicapped poet in 1931, patronised by artists and poets. If you look closely, you would be able to see the onsen at the base. The 1st picture was taken on the day we arrived and 2nd (right) was taken on the day we left after it had snowed heavily the night before. Beautiful isn’t it.


A little stream cuts through the ryokan as well. The women’s bath is beautiful. There is an elevated cypress tub you can sit into which looks out to the river.


We were provided a room on the 2nd floor in the new wing. On the ground floors were indoor hot baths paired with beautifully landscaped outdoor baths that look out to the waterfall behind.


One interesting thing. Aoni Onsen started off with kerosene lamps as electricity was not easily available then. It still uses kerosene lamps and heaters for the hot baths, garden walkways, rooms, dining hall and waiting areas today. The light from the kerosene lamps definitely added charm to the space.


Most ryokans would have private minibuses that would bring you to the public bus terminal to transfer to the train station. The 2nd picture was the interior of the train we took. We were quite amused to see a fan on the ceiling. I believe this is used in the older trains in summer.


From Tohoku region, we travelled to Hakodate (Hokkaido) via the underwater Seikan Tunnel (1 hr distance) which took 40 years to build! Hakodate is a seaside town and one of the 1st to open its doors to the West. W told me it felt like San Francisco with the sloped roads and trams fronting the sea. It was pretty touristy with warehouses converted to souvenir shops. However I noticed something esle. Hakodate seemed to have many niche cafes scattered along the sloped roads away from the touristy bay area. I found one – PeacePiece.


PeacePiece. It doesn’t have a shop front. Only a door and a sign. We were apprehensive at first but it was SO COLD we decided to give it a shot. The cafe was empty except for the owner. But we were glad we stepped in. We entertained ourselves with his interesting book collection. I peeped behind the books and observed him as he made each cup of coffee. Each step was focused and carefully executed like a craftsman at work. A rare find. In his blog, he had hoped that coffee can be appreciated like sake and sochu. This guy truly LOVES his coffee.


Hakodate-Mura. One day, I want to run an inn like that too but surrounded with woods, mountains and rivers. Hehe.

During our stay, the innkeeper introduced a family restaurant ‘wano’ to us. It was the kind of restaurant with lots of regulars (looking at the numerous tagged sake bottles), no English menu and manned by an elderly husband and wife team who spoke no English. We wanted them to recommend their specialties. After several failed attempts, we went ‘oishi?’ and fell back on sign language. They understood us immediately. Haha.

Everything was right. The oden tofu that sat on a light tasty broth had amazing texture and when paired with mustard it completely blew us away. It was so simple. The last picture was simmered eel with no hint of fishiness. We also had squid tempura, fried octopus, chutoro sashimi, roe (given to us for free coz they were happy we liked their food).


No amount of words can describe the comforting food and the friendly old couple. If you need more information, just mail me. I’ve got it marked out on the map.

about differences

March 2, 2009

I am halfway through a 2-weeks MC due to a surgery and this leave came at the right time for me to sort out the crazy ideas raging through my brain which further accumulated after lying in bed for SO LONG (that my back and my butt hurts!).

Hence, I truly appreciate W who just got back on Saturday after a 1 week work trip to KL and despite a bad throat and cough, he beared with ‘the ticking time bomb’ and gamely field 2 hours of ammunition laced with ‘what ifs. should we. how. when. why don’t and WHY NOT!?!?!?‘.

I recalled this article W pointed out whilst reading the Japan Times. It left a very deep impression on me *I kept the newspaper cutting*. The article was originally from Los Angeles Times and written by Deborah Heiligman titled ‘The Darwins’ Marriage of Science and Religion’. She is also the author of the book ‘Charles and Emma: The Darwins Leap of Faith’ which is currently available in the library.

It chronicles Charles Darwin and Emma’s marriage which lasted to the day Charles Darwin died. It showed how 2 persons with absolutely differing views supported one another especially during an era when the difference is almost unthinkable. Read about it here

I understand the limitions of a book in illustrating 43 years of marriage between CD and Emma. I never think it is easy explaining what marriage is. After all, it is also possible that the writer could have formed her own perceptions and perhaps I am just a hopeless romantic. There will always be cynics. However I do believe that what touches the human heart should not be wrong and I would try to achieve that ideal.

Back to us. It was a friendly chit chat. There were differing views but I appreciate them. It made me think. Besides, like Metrodad had said ‘What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with the incompatibility’. Awesome.

I would be working hard.

matoko shinkai

March 2, 2009

Matoko Shinkai is WONDERFUL. You MUST WATCH HIS WORKS. They are masterpieces. Each frame is beautifully crafted and painstakingly put together by the team. The way sunlight and flourescent light is expressed, the colours and texture of each frames inserted with the beautiful soundtrack by Tenmon send tingles down my spine and made my hair stand.


Matoko Shinkai was introduced to me by W via ‘Global Shinkai Day 2009’ a fansub website where the world could view his films for free to 28 February 2009 via CrunchyRoll.

Read about him here.

In 5 Centimetres Per Second, the attentiveness to sights and sounds blew me off *kudos to the production team*. I was particularly awed by the train scenes. The train interior is wonderfully detailed, the fan on the ceiling of the train *found in the old trains serving rural areas*, the baggage compartment, handles, seats, the way the connecting joints between carriages moved, the water droplets on the windows and the way the characters behaved in the train is exactly as I had noticed in Hokkaido (Winter) last January. For instance, the lead character was so numbed with the pain of waiting, that the harsh winter wind through the open door was unnoticed. Another character sitting beside him (standing) pressed a button to close the door and shut out the cold *that happened to me coz i didn’t realise i could close the door*. It is simple but the juxtaposing of emotions with such simple acts say so much and at the same time brought out a subtleness that is part of the everyday Japanese life.


Makoto Shinkai is hailed as the next Miyazaki. I guess what they meant was he would be the next BIG THING. In terms of themes and style of animation, he is different. For one, little tots would not be able to appreciate his films! He explores urban themes of time, loneliness, emptiness and lost promises. 5cm was the most painful of his films for me. W thinks its positive closure. What do you think?

Anime is a new found interest introduced to me by the Ultimate Anime Otaku aka the HUSBAND, W, who believes that every kid should be brought up on Anime *horror*. I KNOW he secretly harbours the thoughts and the days when he can share his life philosophy with our kids through NARUTO. Though i appreciate good anime and have a very deep respect for anime artists and directors, I have not progressed to THAT highest level yet but i do harbour dreams *amongst many others* of becoming an Anime Director so that I can create beautiful and meaningful films and put a twinkle to the human spirit.

Like design work, I like to believe that the entire process of creating an Anime must be so meaningful, intensifying and satisfying for the entire production team. Maybe someday, I’ll learn more about Anime illustration using photoshop and give it a shot *haha* but only as an Anime Artist.