2013 Aug – So long, farewell SG

Today I sit here at work @ 2pm and I have less than 3 hrs left before I finish my time here in SG. Weird feelings come to mind and I am not the best person with good byes, but it has been a tumultuous journey over the last 5 years.

I leave having spent the most time in a company SG (over 8 years) over my working life so far. 3 years spent in Sydney office and 5 years in Tokyo. The work in Japan was not the best but it was not the worst either. I arrived at a certain level and I left basically at the same level, so I am happy to explore the outside opportunities given I know not many things will change here for the next 5 years. I wish them luck and I look forward to the next working chapter in my life.

I will nmiss sitting lazily at my desk staring out towards Mount Fuji way and day dreaming what I want in life. I will miss my lunch spots, where I was able to contemplate about life and work and everything else.

I think I will remember the most, the interesting people I met along the way. Although to be honest, in Japan it is very difficult to get close to people and I although I knew them, I didnt really know them that well. Maybe I should have tried more, but being here for 7 years I have somewhat become introvert like and very much local like them. Anyways life continues and I look forward to whatever comes my way in my next role.

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2013 May – Oscar my good friend

Yesterday I received news from my brother Hien that Oscar our pet dog passed away in the early hours of the morning. I was very sad to hear this news, as Oscar was very much a part of the family.

close up of Oscar. What a cute cheeky little dog. Always brings a smile to our face.

close up of Oscar. What a cute cheeky little dog. Always brings a smile to our face.

My brother Hien brought Oscar (a Maltese bisho frise mix) into the family when he was a wee little baby. I still remember wrestling with Oscar over a pair of raggy socks and admiring his cuteness when he slept and rested his head on the back of my hand.

He grew quickly and before long we realised he was going to be a naughty little boy since we hadnt really trained him properly to behave. Like one instance when he was jumping crazy on the leg of a friend or the time when he continued to run away from home and not come back or the time he kept on growling at me when I was holding the cricket bat (no boy I was not going to hit you…only the cricket ball).

Oscar when he was sick. Had to keep that space helmet on so he could not over scratch himself.

Oscar when he was sick. Had to keep that space helmet on so he could not over scratch himself.

One of Oscar's favourite sleeping positions.

One of Oscar’s favourite sleeping positions.

Oscar sitting outside my old bedroom.

Oscar sitting outside my old bedroom.

Another lazy sitting position.

Another lazy sitting position.

Oscar having a good sleep.

Oscar having a good sleep.

Always waiting for food.

Always waiting for food.

Over time though, Oscar was very dependable, he was very loyal and most of all he was always there unselfishly to make you happy.

I always expected Oscar to be there forever, by our side. Even when my Mum told me during her recent visit in April 2013 that Oscar was getting very sick, I always thought that I could walk in through the door and an over excited Oscar would jump into my arms and lick my face like a lolly pop. But deep down inside I had come to realise that Oscar had lived a long life and time was not on his side. His life was very much up and down due to his illness. We went through every moment with him as he went through cancer and chemotherapy and also through his recovery when he bounced back like only Oscar can. He had a long life and I can honestly say he lived every one of the 80 dog years he was around. A full and rich life I would say.

I will especially miss his mannerisms, of which there were many:
* impatiently waiting for his food
* sitting next to the dinner table waiting for hand me down food
* trying to escape from the bottom section
* jumping on the bed instead of sleeping on the floor
* hogging all the space on the bed
* scratching the door when he wanted to leave the room
* loud sniffing noise outside the door when he wanted to come in
* “leash boy leash” always brought excitement
* sit boy sit, drop boy drop, shake, shake, roll boy roll!
* unable to take Oscar for a walk without the leash, otherwise he would run away.
* doing #2s at the same reliable spot (tree down the road)
* his walk back and forth to indicate he was ready to poo
* eating grass when he had a stomach ache
* dragging ass when he had diahreah
* being scared of the water, especially big waves
* hearing his barks from inside the plane when flying to Adelaide.
* wanting to fight with bigger dogs
* stretches on our thighs
* dog in the window
* having to trick him so he wouldnt bark at us when we left for work
* playing chaseys with him in the back yard and then getting tired and getting tickled like crazy
* surprise poo poo in my room or other unexpected places like the living room
* his quiet beauty when sleeping.

May you rest in peace good friend. We will miss you.

May you rest in peace my good friend. This is my favourite photo. You look so peaceful in this photo.

May you rest in peace my good friend. This is my favourite photo. You look so peaceful in this photo.

April 2013 – Sanh’s clan in Japan

Last week my sister Sanh & her family + Mum visited us in Japan. I hinted to them that i would not be in Japan for long. So they took this opportunity to take their two kids to Japan & experience the wonderful culture and food on offer.

Here are some of the photos:

How can we fit 5 people in our living room? easy...tell them its ok until we lay down the futon mattresses and its too late.

How can we fit 5 people in our living room? easy…tell them its ok until we lay down the futon mattresses and its too late.

Olivia not too happy that everyone is wearing face masks without asking her...next time we'll give you a halloween mask sweetie!

Olivia not too happy that everyone is wearing face masks without asking her…next time we’ll give you a halloween mask sweetie!

Sanh's clan & Mum at a visit to Kawaguchiko. Sakura bloom in full blossom still and Fuji san visible in the back ground...what a treat for them, esp since sakura bloomed early in Tokyo this year.

Sanh’s clan & Mum at a visit to Kawaguchiko. Sakura bloom in full blossom still and Fuji san visible in the back ground…what a treat for them, esp since sakura bloomed early in Tokyo this year.

Emma in front of Mount Fuji & underneath the sakura blossom. Such a cutie.

Emma in front of Mount Fuji & underneath the sakura blossom. Such a cutie.

Near the temple with mount Fuji in the background. Mum & Olivia making the tough walk up the hill.

Near the temple with mount Fuji in the background. Mum & Olivia making the tough walk up the hill.

Nice lunch with Mizue's parents at Gonpachi @ Nishi Azabu. Here we taugh Olivia how to say "gochi sou sama" to otou san.

Nice lunch with Mizue’s parents at Gonpachi @ Nishi Azabu. Here we taugh Olivia how to say “gochi sou sama” to otou san.

A trip to Miraikan in Odaiba. Here we saw the Ashimo exhibition and also some theatre presentation about the birth of space..3D style. Here I am putting on my best robot impression...I'm on the left...the fake robot on the right looks abit dopey.

A trip to Miraikan in Odaiba. Here we saw the Ashimo exhibition and also some theatre presentation about the birth of space..3D style. Here I am putting on my best robot impression…I’m on the left…the fake robot on the right looks abit dopey.

Inside the deep sea boat..tight quarters.

Inside the deep sea boat..tight quarters.

Deep sea boat from the outside. Lets make embarrassing pose for everyone.

Deep sea boat from the outside. Lets make embarrassing pose for everyone.

Olivia having abit of fun at the game centre in Odaiba. Kick the ball sweetie, not daddy's butt.

Olivia having abit of fun at the game centre in Odaiba. Kick the ball sweetie, not daddy’s butt.

Ray having a go at the tennis game. Keen eye on the ball.

Ray having a go at the tennis game. Keen eye on the ball.

One final tea gathering with okaasan. Emma with neko chan, Olivia drawing some sakura for okaasan & smiles all round.

One final tea gathering with okaasan. Emma with neko chan, Olivia drawing some sakura for okaasan & smiles all round.

many of the photos dont show the amount of other activities they got up to including Disney land, a trip to Nagoya and to Dome City…unfort Mugi chan and I could not keep up with their pace and got abit sick…but they kept going and it was good they made the most out of their time here.

Its been abit sad since they left, as the place looks super empty now, but it was good to see them and hopefully we can see them soon sometime. Have a good one in Singapore guys.

April 2013 – Haru no arashi

Spring has come with a vengeance ..literally we’ve had this strong spring wind for like the last 7 days…it’s really playing with my physical condition as I am quite sensitive to the season changes and sudden changes like getting really hot or really windy or like big changes in temperature can give me migraines like crazy…but I have survived so far…here are some photos from over the last few weeks..

Mugi chan's hair in disarray...and this is just hanging up the clothes.

Mugi chan’s hair in disarray…and this is just hanging up the clothes.

Outside the newly refurbished kabukicho za in ginza...so many old folks there it wasnt funny.

Outside the newly refurbished kabukicho za in ginza…so many old folks there it wasnt funny.

sake barrels outside the kabukicho za...quick photo and then a quick escape.

sake barrels outside the kabukicho za…quick photo and then a quick escape.

At a friend's wedding party..held at a lavish 3 star restaurant in Hiro...very expensive indeed. In fact the food was quite rich since I had to eat Mugi cha's forgois ..so so rich!

At a friend’s wedding party..held at a lavish 3 star restaurant in Hiro…very expensive indeed. In fact the food was quite rich since I had to eat Mugi cha’s forgois ..so so rich!

Enjoying the last remnants  of sakura for 2013...one last walk down Meguro gawa...Mugi chan throwing sakura petals into the air ...autumn leaves style.

Enjoying the last remnants of sakura for 2013…one last walk down Meguro gawa…Mugi chan throwing sakura petals into the air …autumn leaves style.

April 2014 – Too early for Hanami!!

Hanami has come to Tokyo about 15 days earlier than usual. This up and down weather is the major cause of this and it hasnt stopped. It was 25 degrees last week and this week it went down to 13 degrees. Spring and winter really need to make up their minds, Winter should already pack up and go and Spring should be smothering us with that warm & pollen filled air.

Here are some of our photos for this year. Note, my annual let’s look like a pussy photo has been included.

At Shinjuku gyoen - having bento underneath the tako sakura tree. The branches were full of sakura blossom that they looked like octopus legs.

At Shinjuku gyoen – having bento underneath the tako sakura tree. The branches were full of sakura blossom that they looked like octopus legs.

Lovely photo together. It started to get colder in the day.

Lovely photo together. It started to get colder in the day.

yo yo yo, I'm checking out the sakura, yeah yeah yeah...the sun is shining on the side of my face...peace out.

yo yo yo, I’m checking out the sakura, yeah yeah yeah…the sun is shining on the side of my face…peace out.

Annual innocent person lost in the sakura branches photo. The tradition continues!

Annual innocent person lost in the sakura branches photo. The tradition continues!

Mugi chan through the sakura branches...kawaii!!

Mugi chan through the sakura branches…kawaii!!

At Shinjuku gyoen, near a popular viewing spot.

At Shinjuku gyoen, near a popular viewing spot.

There’s probably a week left before it all blows away. We’ll definitely be enjoying it as much as possible, just like some good things in life…it quickly comes and goes!

March 2013 – Spring is in the air Kumomon!

Time to put away the snowboards and coats & scarves and make way for hoodies and jeans. Cold air is swiftly blown away and replaced by the kafun (pollen) and even more now the yellow sand and pollution from China (bring out the face masks).

What a busy few weeks we’ve had. Here are some of our more memorable photos. Our best moment would have to be meeting our favourite yurukyara Kumamon! Not my idea, Mugi chan’ idea’s of course :). Kumamon is the local mascot for Kumamoto, a small prefecture in Kyushuu south of Japan. He was voted the most popular mascot in 2011 and since then has risen to stardom in Japan. His face is everywhere, but mostly on products selling Kumamoto goods such as dekopon (a mandarin), some tofu goods (Mugi chan bought last week), etc. It was calculated that he sold goods valued to over 20billion yen…that’s alot for being a naughty bear, who has charmed alot of hearts over Japan. Ask Mugi chan, everything is Kumamon now!!

Mugi chan made this love heart cake for Valentines day. I think she loves making cake now more than anything (just another excuse to make cake :)).

Mugi chan made this love heart cake for Valentines day.

This is us at the Tokyo marathon. Last year I ran and Mugi chan cheered me from the sidelines. Unfort this year I didnt get in, but I've always wanted to cheer along the 40,000 runners. We saw many in costume including Kumamon, My Melody chan, Minnie mouse, etc. Since we were wearing our baseball caps, we got alot of high 5s from Giants and Carp fans. Carp gambatte!

This is us at the Tokyo marathon. Last year I ran and Mugi chan cheered me from the sidelines. Unfort this year I didnt get in, but I’ve always wanted to cheer along the 40,000 runners. We saw many in costume including Kumamon, My Melody chan, Minnie mouse, etc. Since we were wearing our baseball caps, we got alot of high 5s from Giants and Carp fans. Carp gambatte!

Bought this huge kinoko in Hokkaido...so delicious! Super Mario would be jealous.

Bought this huge kinoko in Hokkaido…so delicious! Super Mario would be jealous.

Mugi chan at the Toyoko sen ...the train line was closing in Shibuya with a new connection from Yokohama to Ikebukuro. So many people here (1 week before closure), but even more people on the last day. We beat the crowds and Mugi chan was able to get her natsukashii photo on the line she use to take since she was a little kid.

Mugi chan at the Toyoko sen …the train line was closing in Shibuya with a new connection from Yokohama to Ikebukuro. So many people here (1 week before closure), but even more people on the last day. We beat the crowds and Mugi chan was able to get her natsukashii photo on the line she use to take since she was a little kid.

At Odaiba Icchome shotengai. This place had all the classic video games, all the old japanese candies, old showa era things e.g. zero series shinkansen, Tokyo Tower etc. Such a step back in time to Japan in the 50s era.

At Odaiba Icchome shotengai. This place had all the classic video games, all the old japanese candies, old showa era things e.g. zero series shinkansen, Tokyo Tower etc. Such a step back in time to Japan in the 50s era.

Playing some of the games...

Playing some of the games…

Kumamon surrounded by aggressive obaa san's, mum + kids, me & Mugi chan. Doing his act..such a cute bear, with so much character.

Kumamon surrounded by aggressive obaa san’s, mum + kids, me & Mugi chan. Doing his act..such a cute bear, with so much character.

This is my favourite photo. Kumamon!

This is my favourite photo. Kumamon!

What a crowd! We left early to buy some of the dekopon (which came with the kumamon special bag) and very lucky since it sold out just before he finished his show. Japanese old grannies are very aggressive...I got hussled and  pushed many a time.

What a crowd! We left early to buy some of the dekopon (which came with the kumamon special bag) and very lucky since it sold out just before he finished his show. Japanese old grannies are very aggressive…I got hussled and pushed many a time.

Our loot bag, full of dekopon.

Our loot bag, full of dekopon.

What a busy day it was ...Kumamon in the morning and then Joel Robuchon at Ebisu for lunch at his 2 star restaurant. This was our main course and I must admit the pork dish was exceptional. The overall  service was great. Not much to complain about  esp for the over $100 we spent. Well worth it though. There is a 3 star restaurant 1 floor above, but this is even more expensive...so we opted for the 2 star and less expensive one. No complaints.

What a busy day it was …Kumamon in the morning and then Joel Robuchon at Ebisu for lunch at his 2 star restaurant. This was our main course and I must admit the pork dish was exceptional. The overall service was great. Not much to complain about esp for the over $100 we spent. Well worth it though. There is a 3 star restaurant 1 floor above, but this is even more expensive…so we opted for the 2 star and less expensive one. No complaints.

Outside the Robuchon restaurant in Ebisu...abit over the top with the castle (aboit like disney land), but good food nonetheless.

Outside the Robuchon restaurant in Ebisu…abit over the top with the castle (aboit like disney land), but good food nonetheless.

Sakura is soon blossoming, so will have photos to share soon.

Jan 2013 – Japan Winter

Winter in Japan always reminds me of snow boarding and abit of hibernation. Nabe pots come out with avengence and futon matresses are piled up just to keep to warm.

Here are some of our activities over winter:

Our trip to the Nissen cup noodle museum, where we were able to make our very own cup noodle. Good story as well of the inventor, who at 60 years old still had the initiative to come up with the idea. Kudos to him.

Our trip to the Nissen cup noodle museum, where we were able to make our very own cup noodle. Good story as well of the inventor, who at 60 years old still had the initiative to come up with the idea. Kudos to him.

Final products. Funnily enough, these actually tasted quite good. But the extra added MSG I'm sure did the trick.

Final products. Funnily enough, these actually tasted quite good. But the extra added MSG I’m sure did the trick.

Revenge of the skee ball. Mugi chan got this on her first go. Such a lucky break..last time we won a big wan wan chan as well. This time a christmas teddy bear. Now Mugi chan is addicted to this game. I need to keep her away from here.

Revenge of the skee ball. Mugi chan got this on her first go. Such a lucky break..last time we won a big wan wan chan as well. This time a christmas teddy bear. Now Mugi chan is addicted to this game. I need to keep her away from here.

Christmas 2012. Pork roast, baguette, roat veges, some gravy & green salad and a home made cake. Dont forget the kiddie beer (kodomo bi-ru). What a lovely Christmas dinner.

Christmas 2012. Pork roast, baguette, roat veges, some gravy & green salad and a home made cake. Dont forget the kiddie beer (kodomo bi-ru). What a lovely Christmas dinner.

We were very kechi this season and didnt want to buy cake, since it cost so much. Instead we decide to make it. In the end the individual ingredients cost more than a cake off the shelf, but ours was alot bigger (2 times bigger) and had alot more strawberries. Well worth the 3 days we had to finish it in...(stomach churning) :)

We were very kechi this season and didnt want to buy cake, since it cost so much. Instead we decide to make it. In the end the individual ingredients cost more than a cake off the shelf, but ours was alot bigger (2 times bigger) and had alot more strawberries. Well worth the 3 days we had to finish it in…(stomach churning) 🙂

At the Muji shop in Yurakucho. This whole set behind was of a small town, made up of ginger bread. This is christmas in Japan.

At the Muji shop in Yurakucho. This whole set behind was of a small town, made up of ginger bread. This is christmas in Japan.

Out nice walk at Atami. A day trip to a local onsen and then a casual stroll around the beach front. Such a lovely day.

Out nice walk at Atami. A day trip to a local onsen and then a casual stroll around the beach front. Such a lovely day.

Trip to the local neko cafe. This was a pretty snobby longhair cat, but really beautiful and calm...such lovely blue eyes.

Trip to the local neko cafe. This was a pretty snobby longhair cat, but really beautiful and calm…such lovely blue eyes.

A visit to Round 1, a all you can play game centre with many different activities..including this very difficult to play guitar game.

A visit to Round 1, a all you can play game centre with many different activities..including this very difficult to play guitar game.

Good times in our kotatsu. This is very Japanese..and we decided to set this up during winter ...such a nice area to sit, underneath a warm light and in front of the TV, eating cake and mikan and watching the end of year NHK song contest. This is the Japanese life.

Good times in our kotatsu. This is very Japanese..and we decided to set this up during winter …such a nice area to sit, underneath a warm light and in front of the TV, eating cake and mikan and watching the end of year NHK song contest. This is the Japanese life.

At the special shinkansen kaiten zushi. Very different from the normal ones...when you order the dish comes flying to you in a special bullet train tray. Will definitely be back for this.

At the special shinkansen kaiten zushi. Very different from the normal ones…when you order the dish comes flying to you in a special bullet train tray. Will definitely be back for this.

At the metro train museum in front of the replica of the first Ginza  train. Nice museum to understand how the metro works in Tokyo.

At the metro train museum in front of the replica of the first Ginza train. Nice museum to understand how the metro works in Tokyo.

Great winter so far, but much more to explore.

Dec 2012 – Hawaii Oahu

Its been a while since the Oshima post. Firstly I have taken the blog off line cause I felt there were too many private things I was sharing with people on the outside. Best left for people who I know and trust. So this will be my personal blog diary, with limited sharing with family and friends.

Dec 2012 – Hawaii Oahu

This trip was very much last minute booked (literally a week before departure). We had planned a trip during this time, but I was hoping for Guam or Okinawa (closer waters). However Mugi chan convinced me that Oahu would be a better plan since it offers all that we look for on an island trip …hiking, abit of snorkelling, some fishing and some good food and shopping. So it was without a hesitation, we booked at our local HIS travel agent.

The trip there was pretty much uneventful, however HIS is so popular and so is Hawaii as a destination for Japanese that when we arrived, we were treated with the dreaded Japanese long queue to check into the HIS packaged tour. Gees I thought we’d get away from Japan but immediately we were taken back…surrounding us were only nihonjin and people speaking nihon go etc. Not a good start. After the tour bus trip into Waikiki, we immediately left the crowds and headed to the hotel….with such excitement we went straight to bed. Although mid morning in Hawaii, it was 3am in Tokyo time and we were buggered.

After a quick snooze, we headed straight to the beach and walked along the famed Waikiki beach. Such lovely weather and watching the sun set with my lovely wife was so romantic…I’m such a sucker for this.

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The next day we took the bus to Hanauna Bay (40min from Waikiki) for some local snorkelling. The weather was far from snorkelling conditions with extreme windy conditions and the odd shower here and there. But there was enough sunny bits to make the morning enjoyable. It was actually warmer in the water than outside…once you jumped in. We saw so many big fish, but unfort the elusive turtle was not to be spotted. Next time.

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In the afternoon, we opted for a fancy Hawaiian Luau at Paradise Cove. This is a hawaiian show, with buffet dinner and some other entertainment. We made some flower bracelets, did some traditional Hawaiian games and watched an entertaining show. The night was very cold, as the wind did not let up, but overall it was not a bad show, although the food was pretty crap. Prob wouldnt go again, since the cost was like 70bucks per person, but hey we did it once and had an ok experience.

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The next day we had the car and did a drive around the east side of the island. Unfort the weather was not too good, but we did hike to the top of Diamond head. Such a long walk, but just doable even in snorkelling sea shoes (trust me) and a really daggy yellow hawaiian shirt.

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Also we ended up finding a great supermarket at Hawaiian Whole Foods. The is the best food market I’ve been to. We even had our lunch here..some spare ribs, some sushi and some pumpkin soup. We bought some environmentally friendly bags with the supermarket’s name as our souvenir.

Along the way we wanted to do some fishing, but the weather was really bad and there were no bites, so after 30mins we aborted and ended up hiking the Maka apu trail to the light house. These were testing conditions since it was sunny (but extremely windy) when we started, then turned to torrential rain but still very windy and then back to sunny (but still very windy) the next minute. A 1 hour trail there and back and that was enough for us.

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Our final day and we decided to hit Pearl Harbour (again by bus). This was quite educational and not too biased towards US side. We took photos of some missiles, a Japanese 1 man submarine, etc. We saw a documentary and then headed towards the USS Arizona (which was sunk during the raid and now stands as the memorial). Since there was not much to see, Mugi chan and I took 2 quick photos and then hit the same boat back to the visitor centre.

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On the way back, we decided to do some shopping at Wal mart ..we spent quite abit of time here…gees we bought everything from fishing reels, 2 dollar hawaiian t-shirts, to cold & flu tablets…you name it we looked at everything. In the end we spent like 350USD, but it was all worth it. We headed back to the hotel and thought that was it, but Mugi chan didnt have enough…so we decided to take the bus back to our last stop Ala Moana centre (we started shopping at 9pm), wow talk about last minute. We did A&F, A&E & GAP in very quick time. We found the cost was very very cheap with the yen still killing the other currencies. We bought quite a few items and it felt like whatever we saw, it was 40-60% off so it was a bargain. When we bought our last items it was closing time and we still hadnt eaten. But a quick stop by the local ABC shop to pick up some dinner, was enough for us as we headed back to our hotel to contemplate how we were going to pack our loot.

Next day was an early departure from the hotel, so a quick good bye to a lovely time in Oahu..would love to come back..this really felt like home…hope to return one day.

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Oct 2012 – Return to Izu Oshima

We havent had a good fish in a while, so we decided to head to the closest island to Tokyo for a quick weekend. Here are some of our results:

This is the first fish we caught, moments before, I lost my rod to a big bite on my first cast. I couldnt believe it. I never learn. On this trip we lost 2 rods to 2 huge bites…I really should invest in a rod holder.

I asked Mugi chan to reel in the rod and she thought it was a utsubo (moray eel). Instead it was this huge crab. Mugi wasnt too keen to keep it, so we threw it back into the ocean. Poor oto san, we couldnt give it to him to eat.

This was the biggest fish we caught, what a huge bite and I only dropped the rod in front of us too, didnt even cast it out. It was abit of a fight, but we were able to bring it onto land. We got the minshuku guy to serve it for us and he made sashimi. It was quite chewy and smelly, so we fed the town’s neko chan most of it.

Mugi chan feeding some of the neko chan in town. This was one of the more friendlier ones.

Another neko chan taking our catch for a midnight feed.

probably cant see, but Fuji san is in the distance, behind some Tokyo smog.

this is the crater in mount mihara which erupted in 1986. What an amazing sight, you could also see some of the smoke still coming out…it was quite freaky!

last minute fishing and I caught this oji san. As we were packing up, we got another huge bite, which took another one of our rods into the ocean. I was really depressed at this stage. I really need to get that rod holder or at least put my foot on the rod. We’ve lost about 6 rods so far to big bites from Hachijojima x1, Shikinejima x1, Kouzushima x2, Oshima x 2. If only I was able to hold the rod and take the fish in. Well if anything, it’s given us even more incentive to go back to the tokyo islands to catch that elusive big fish.

Takakawa yama (Hatsukari) – Oct 2012

Thinking we were low on fitness and high on eating Kuau’in burger the past few weekends, we thought it might be wise to do some hiking & get some exercise into our system.

We had to scrummage through some old brochures (amongst our collection of maps and the like from all our local travels) and we eventually found a train leaflet on hiking around Yamanashi region. We have a love for viewing Fuji san and so it was not hard to decide a hike which involved viewing this majestic mountain. The views from Takakawa yama seemed spectacular, so we quickly decided on this mountain.

The train ride was a swift 90 mins away on the Kaiji express line. We noted a lot more train otaku along the path and were not too surprised, given these guys are out in force most weekends with their high tech cameras, taking photos of trains, trains and more trains. But as we got off at Hatsukari station, we saw some locals waiting eagerly for the trains as well. Curious ourselves, we found out that the emperor was making a rare trip in his special train out Yamanashi way. We opted to hang around a few minutes and it wasnt long before the train and the emperor gave us a pleasant surprise. I was in abit of shock, since i didnt expect to see him in the train (thought he may have been on the playstation, chit chatting with the wife or simply in the toilet), but surprise surprise he was within a few metres from us and waving as well (albeit within the space of 0.5 of a second).

Mugi chan with the fast approaching train behind her, with the emperor waving from the inside and on this side of the train..what a good treat.

We had a sudden bounce in our steps as we ventured to the start of the trek. It was not long before this enthusiasm dissipated into abit of a concern, due to the many bear warning signs about and the increased number of bear siting stories we heard on the news.

on of the many bear warning signs about. Mugi chan swears, she heard some loud rustling noises when we were finishing…kowai!

The trek itself was quite enjoyable, although Mugi chan would have preferred that we took the slightly easier route. There was the 男坂 male hill and the 女坂 female hill and I chose the male path up & the female hill down, which was a good compromise I thought (although Mugi chan is still sporting sore muscles 2 days after).

Super mario mushrooms along the way.

We got up the mountain quickly, but unfortunately, since it was cloudy, we were unable to see Fuji san. Abit of a disappointment, but we were glad we finished and it was a nice view of the surrounding mountains. Guess there is motivation to return to the mountain.

no Fuji san in the background, but was able to get this embarrassing pose from Mugi chan.

female path down the mountain, much preferred by mugi chan.

Next on the list we wanted to hit the onsen to loosen our muscles. We found a place about 20mins walk from the station, but as we arrived, we quickly noticed it was some lady’s bathtub, which she advertised as mineral water heated up (basically mountain water from the taps heated up). We quickly paid our 1,000 yen each (abit of a rip off esp since this was not an onsen at all) and left the place.

Not an onsen at all, we were scammed by an old lady. We quickly took a shower & bath and got outta there. Felt good though, since we were feeling abit sticky from the trek.

We finished the trip with dinner at the local restaurant which served houtou (local noodles dish, with some pork, pumpkin, miso soup & other veges). What a nice way to finish off the day.

All in all, Takakawa yama was a nice & not too hard mountain to climb. Although we didnt tick off all the items on our wish list, the fact that we were able to get the emperor’s attention (by my frantic waving) and Mugi chan was able to see the special emperor’s train he rarely rides in, was enough to make our day.