Monday, October 26, 2009

Hilchryme & Old Doramas

26th October 2009, Monday

This song had become an ear worm since this morning:

It's the second single under major label for Niigata based R&B (I don't really know if that is the correct genre but they all sounded the same in Japan), Hilchryme.

In truth there had been many pretentious rapping performers in the J Pop scene for the past few years, churned out a catchy tune then fade into obscurity.
Hilchryme might be one of those but this song should win them some fad-chasing fans for sure.

When they appeared on last Friday's Music Station, the vocals, looking like a pimp from Kabukicho with flashy shades and his DJ friend like all DJs in other groups just kept words to the minimum, sounded pretty poor live but once again the song caught on for sure.
Many acts had sold plenty after appearing on Music Station, and it looked probable that this single might do well in coming weeks as well.

The title of the track "春夏秋冬 (Shunkashuutou)" which for Chinese understanding people like myself represents the four seasons and the lyrics also stresses alot on the characteristic features of the seasons which the Japanese people are obsessed with, namely cherry blossoms (spring), sea (summer), red leaves (autumn) and snow (winter).
Songs for a specific season are big sellers which will come back years after years but one which covered all seasons...hmmmm

The weekend went past very much to plan.
I did not want to go out as it was like 34 degree on daily basis and only drop a couple of degrees at night.
The fuse in my water heater blew up spontaneously the other day and it would take a big deal to replace it with another (we did have a spare), so we have to make do with cold water till my parents come back from their short Hong Kong escapde.
It is find considering the water will warm up by natural forces ultimately.

Last weekend was one I got frustrated in front of the PC with Football Manager and next weekend with the missus heading northwards again, I am facing the prospect of being the captain of a ship with no seamen, a long voyage indeed.
So this weekend I just tried to dabble with a median among the two but time flies real fast and not much was accomplished I felt.

One thing did piqued my interest when I was doing a wiki check on Yuji Oda. I had forgotten why I did it anyway but I stumbled on a classic 1996 TBS dorama, "Mahiru no Tsuki (真昼の月)" or "Midday Moon" in English.

This was the first dorama which I took attention of Takako Tokiwa but it was the memorable plot which involved the plight of a victim of a brutal rape as well as the man so dedicated to her that kept me following the show back in those days when Central was known as Premiere 12 and they showed English-subbed Japanese dorama on weekday nights. Good Times.
The theme song, "Now You're Not Here" is a hypnotic track which just suited the mood of the series.

Of course I do not think I knew anyone who had the series that old on VCD but with the magic of online streaming, the entire library of classic doramas is not a click of the mouse away.
The quality is shoddy but I could care less and it was easy to finish the 12 episodes within hours spread between 2 days.
Now I am reminiscing another dorama from that era "Jinsei wa Jyo Jyo da"(人生は上々だ)" or "Friends in Need" (badly translated) starring the star combination of TakuKimu and Hamada from Down Town.
I was in love of Yuriko Ishida and Naoko Ijima from that show and really worth a second watch.

Japanese word of the day: 経典(Classic) Serious doramas these days could not hold the candle to those old classic despite having higher production value

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not Your Average Singaporean

22nd October 2009, Thursday

I think I am a sore thumb that stuck out in a land which conform and condescend.
A land where people tends to just follow a fad and find its cool to follow what people like.

There's nothing wrong with it of course but slowly you will lose your self identity I feel.

There are many classic examples of typical islander around me and of course I still communicate with them in all modes but there were times where I felt I was not intrigued in certain level when talking with the "drones".
Of course on the flip side I can't be possibly befriending and liaising with people with their staunch interest and ideology, there would be exasperating for sure as well.

Over the course of the past 2 decades, I had been molding myself into a sort of Singaporean who develop an eclectic taste though it was not as arty farty as it seem but I just do not think I fit into the general public somehow.

I had been reading regularly of late on my daily journey to and fro from work.
Neil Gaiman who would be in town in a fortnight's time had been the author I was focusing on and after growing up on "The Sandman" and later "Stardust", I was a born again Gaiman fan for sure and looked to pick up more of his novels (not many actually as compared to graphic novels).
With my growing interest in writing I ought to read more to expand my literary skills and style of writing but I detest going to the library and can't possibly keep buying books.
Let's see how things go from there.

I like Gaiman's rotten Americanism but his spooky tales from the old Victorian English period is appealing as well.
My interest on the 2 major English speaking nations across the Atlantic was immense.
Of course I love the American style of satire and ridicule humor. "South Park", "The Office" and even talk shows like "The Late Show with David Letterman" are important dietary essence in my current well being.
Hollywood films be it blockbusters or indies, be it romantic comedy or at times mystery adventure (I steer away from horror and grotesque features), I am always looking for movies to keep me preoccupied.
However I tends to sneer at big money productions which drones are inclined to watch.
As much as I refrain from "Dragonball Evolution", I still paid good money on "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra".

I love English dry humor as well though strong accent can be a deterrence.
Grew up on children show and comedies like "Mind Your Language", "The Black Adder", "Allo Allo" and "Goodness Gracious Me" from Thames or BBC but these days the spectrum had been much limited.
Ricky Gervais' sitcoms are always welcomed and I would pay good money to watch his standup comedy while I fancy Simon Pegg too.

I always have a strong inclination towards the colorful European cultures perhaps firstly from watching professional football and of course food as well.
I love world cinema and European affairs are high on my list as I tried to catch as many interesting films from the great continent as possible.
Quirky French films have to be a favorite of mine.
I would love to pick up all major spoken languages in Europe and tour all prominent cities inside out, perhaps that's for the next lifetime.

As I cringed at how fabricated the Koreans are, developed some sort of a loathing for the Chinese and found Taiwan and Hong Kong too one dimensional, Japan had always appeal to me that other East Asian country could not.
Of course visiting the lovely nation on yearly basis and having lovely friends there help to bolster the affection for the country many in their 60s still could not forgive for the atrocities of the second World War.
Anyway I am a sucker for their history, their geography, their current affairs, their food, their traditional culture, their pop culture, their fashion trend, their literature, their language, basically I am a walking Japanophile as somoe might claimed.

Many local who as mentioned riding on the crest of the fads might had pledged allegiance to the Korean scene now, I had always been dedicated to the sushi-inventing nation.

Of course I do not follow blindly and there are still many aspects of Japan that does not appeal to me, nevertheless it has plant a seed in me and now reaping the harvest I am sure.

Sometimes I wonder listening to classic J pop songs to accompany the writing of Neil Gaiman is the best combination but hell it worked for me.

Then our budding nation of Singapore, the place where I call home.
The place which I hope could be less of a heat cooker or less sardine packed crowded everywhere.

I am not 100% patriotic. I don't agree to all government policies nor I like most of everything here, be it TV, avenues for entertainment, taxes et al; but I have no qualms about staying here for the rest of my life.
It's a nifty place if you want a peaceful, monochrome life, even commuting day in day out with drones.

I am an amalgam of the good things I fancy from the West and the East while highly contended with everything going on for me on the incredibly hot island of Singapore, I am just not your average Singaporean that's for sure.

Japanese word of the day:アイデンティティ (Identity) I fel mine is a bit smudged, in just the way I like it

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Illness is a Crazy Thing

18th October 2009, Monday

Had to take urgent leave today to tend to my terribly-ill missus.
Apparently a bout of gastric flu had decimated her into feeble soul whose tendency to expunge her gastric fluid (bile et al) had kept her up the entire night while I was well in dreamland...well not much dream worth mentioning in fact.

It was palpable that she was not in ship shape for work and while I was preparing to start a long week ahead myself, she sort of pleaded me to keep her company which of course I obliged as that well-exhausted beady eyes of hers made it almost blasphemous to turn down.

Perhaps it had been the only time in a long while for me to fill the role of a fitful husband to tender to my ailing bride, but still not enough to nominate me into the "Husband of the Year" award.

Despite without His Beautiness who was busy skimpy-dipping with his promiscuous partner(s) around the Kinki region of Japan, the work front had been well run and only bearing small glitches which we can handle aptly.

The mid year performance appraisal is scheduled for tomorrow and it would be the first time with the new boss on the helms.
I had been wary of the various warnings given by ex-colleagues about the new assessor whose real thoughts were hard to fathom.
I am desperately trying to win myself in his books and hope my request on been given more responsbilities to fit my experience will be answered.

All the best for tomorrow then.
Japanese word of the day:夫 (Husband) If there's an appraisal for being a husband, I might be at the borderline of being just proficient.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Eriko & Sous' Wedding Part 4

17th October 2009, Saturday

Gotten pretty sick of the same line-up for the buffet breakfast at La Fontaine, I decided to splurge a little for the breakfast for the final day.
In truth we did not changed much to spend for this short trip and seriously with our hosts footing almost every bill possible including lodging which was confirmed during check out, we still had quite a bit to spare as we stared at flying back home in a few hours time.

So off we went to Mister Donuts, my favorite doughnuts joint of all time.
There was a running joke between me and my wife that I had always exclaimed "Mister Donuts" with such affection when we bypass an outlet or saw the CM on TV but never really went in and make a purchase except for a time at Kabukicho back in 2007.

This time round there was a branch located just 2 minutes walk from Hotel Ruiz and we had already munch on some 2 nights before.

Tamaki Hiroshi, one of the hottest CM property in Japan for the past 2 years since his emergence in "Nodame Cantabile" was introducing the new campaign for the Cafe Au Lait and I gladly changed it for our breakfast set with Dan Dan Yasai men.
There was not many customers in the doughnut joint at 8 in the morning but if there were, they would be amazed at the large quantity of doughnuts we had purchased to be consumed there including the new Bitter Choco which was a personal favorite of my dark chocolate-fetish wife.

We had our eyes on the limited edition coffee mugs but it had to be redeemed with points for continual patronizing of Mister Donut..damn!

After ensuring we did not left anything behind in the room, we lugged our luggage with a combined weight of 32 kg to the entrance as our hosts come pick us up on a Monday which was a public holiday, for a reason unknown.(later found out to be Health and Sports Day).
Instead of taking the 5 minutes walk to the station, we drove to the carpark which was starting to crowd on this public holiday.

We went to Shinseido, the only store specialized in selling CDs and DVDs in this part of Morioka as the missus made her purchase of the NEWS concert DVD.
It was there I spotted the new single by The Cro-Magnons (the new The Blue Hearts) which I intended to get it as a present for Sou.
After hanging about for around half hour at the CD shop where we actually had visited 2 days back, we felt there was really nothing to see here and I suggested to go to a denki (electrical appliance) shop in the mold of Big Camera or Yodobashi Camera.

It resulted in a 10 minutes drive to this mega store, Yamada Denki at the same heartland area where the wedding venue was.
We did not have the luxury of time and it was a big place to cover.

I had intended to buy the gift for my secret pal for the X'mas but could not come with the conclusive decision to make a purchase, so in the end it looked to be a wasted trip but not for my missus who managed to find a nice bottle of fragrances for Eriko.

It was during the rush lunch in the restaurant who took ages to prepare their Jajanmen as the seconds were ticking away for the shinkansen, that we presented our hosts their little gifts in appreciation for everything they had done for us in the past 3 days.

They did return the favor with a big bag of goodies including a DVD, bath salt etc before we embark on our trip back to Tokyo.
We wondered when we would meet again but the distance was merely 6000km away and whenever possible flying over would not be a hassle.

So Hayate 11 took us away from Morioka, then bypassing Sendai, Omiya, Ueno and finally came to Tokyo by 3.
With an hour to burn we wandered about the new shopping area within the Tokyo Train station which include "Buzz Search", the high end pastry store we last found when we stayed in Shinagawa in February.
Of course we could not give up on the chance to have a bite on their tasty tarts while my missus could still find a shop which sell authentic goods from Kyoto with a nifty handbag.

Not wanting to rush for train like in the first day while trying to balance ourselves with the huge suitcase down the stairs, we had a better time to locate the platform for the Narita Express.

One hour trip to Narita Terminal One and we shall bring this trip to a closing note but she was still determined to expend the final amount she had left while I brought back with me a notable amount for expenditure the next trip.

Compared to the comfortable A380 flight, the return flight was really a torture for at least 7 hours on the air.
The flight was a connecting flight for passengers from the States to New Delhi, India, thus we noticed an abundance of Indian passengers.
Somehow or another they chose to carry their stone hard luggage up to the plane itself, eating up all the spaces in the overhead compartment.
The flight was pretty full and we did not get to occupy 3 seats and had to share with a middle aged Japanese guy.
He took the aisle seat and was sleeping throughout, meaning it would be hard to visit the lavatory at will.
The situation was worsen by the 2 Indians who conveniently inclined their seats all the way back but luckily the seat in front of mine was not occupied.

I was starting to feel all uncomfortable with the lack of cool air while I was itching in my nether region but just had to bear with it till the plane finally touched down at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

In conclusion, it had been a great retreat for me and my wife and the time we spent with our Japanese hosts were very enjoyable as expected.
The wedding reception turned out much better than anticipated and further bolstered my love for the land of a thousand smiles...wait that's Thailand...

Japanese word of the day:暖かさ(Warmth) The only warmth we can offer in Singapore is really the actual meteorological phenomenon of global warming.

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Eriko & Sou s' Wedding Part 3

16th October 2009, Friday

The itinerary of the day was as followed:
Our hosts would meet us at 9 and drive us westwards to the town of Miyako, Eriko's furusato (home town).
There we would have fresh seafood for lunch before heading to the 三陸海岸 (Sanriku kaikan) and the signature 浄土ヶ浜 (Joudoga Hama). I had overheard that they were going to squeeze in a bath session after that and it was much murky for the events after that.

Sou was designated the driver for the audacious 2 hour trip which will cross some mountainous roads to the seaside town of Miyako.
It wasn't long before the nice scenery of the route of highway 106 had become a hypnotizing element prompting my missus to doze off in the coziness of the Mazda with the tune of ikimonokagari playing in the background.

We made a toilet stop halfway through when the weather went a big crazy with a passing drizzle which ended as fast as it came.
The supermarket there showcased some of the farming pride of the local residence as we marvelled at some vegetables we had yet seen in this lifetime.

The pace of the trip sped up and in no time we reached Miyako and Eriko took over the wheels.
First stop was "Heibi no Me (Snakes' Eyes)", a well-known restaurant, just a stone throw from the train station.

As promised, the restaurant offered the freshest and the most tastebuds appeasing raw seafood which took like mere hours from hauling off the trawlers of the local fisherman to the bowl in front of us.
The assortment of uni (sea urchin), ikura (fish eggs), prawns, crabs, squid and of course the star of the season sanma (pacific saury or 秋刀魚) was just exploding in our mouth as we could not stop salivating while recalling the joy of eating even now in our minds.

After a brief encounter of an elementary school taiko (drums) club performing at the front of the train station, we headed for a fish market where we got to see the freshest seafood in their pride and glory.
Unlike the initial thought of being wet and smelly, the fish market was actually quite clean and most the local haul were selling at very affordable price even a life kraken I mean octopus would agree.

Joudoga Hama was not far away from the fish market and being the prime tourist's attraction, it was not surprising to see the car park being well occupied when we got there.

It was a good 10 minutes walk down along the shoreline facing the Pacific Ocean and we were greeted by the flock of seagulls (not the 1980s English electronic band) or what the locals called as "umi neko (sea cats due to their calling sounded a bit like cat's meowing)".

The plan here was to take a 10 minutes boat ride around the bay which those off shore rocks enclosed and will head into a ravine in a slab of coastal rock.

The wait was to be around 20 minutes, therefore we headed towards the those ocean-eroded giant boulders which form the signature scenery of Jodouga Hama.
The only problem was that the beach was filled with pebbles which made walking really uncomfortable and amazing how some ladies can maneuver with stilettos while the fear of anything aviary started to act on the missus as the seagulls did not look intimidated by human at all.

Donning in our glaring orange life vest (which really was not looking safe enough) and a plastic helmet (perhaps to shelter us from the excretions of the flying umi neko), we were ready to board the motor-runned boat as a seasoned skipper cum guide showed us around the bay.
As usual, I just nodded as he narrated the little known facts of the place while trying to enjoy the nice weather while the real skipper of the boat grew weary at the bow.

The main attraction perhaps was the foray into the chasm which one could observe the crystal blue water around this region while the furious wave came gushing back after hitting the back of the cave.
As our boat made for the jetty, curtailing the ride, we saw Sou and Eriko making their way off for their own tour.

Around the jetty, adults and kids were hurling prawn crackers which was supposedly Umi Neko's favorite snacks which attracted and entire flock.
It was like hormonal response as the birds would instinctively pick up the opening of a packet of crackers and soon the flock would gather around the friendly human feeder.
I myself tried dabbling with it and was interesting to see some of the more desperate seagulls taking flight to snatch those that i threw in mid air.

It was close to 3 when we felt our time at the bay should come to an end as our hosts told us it was tiime for ofuro (public bath).
The location was this nice hotel along the coastline where they had a public bath ran by heating the sea water.

In the e-mail the missus had sent Eriko days prior to our flight, she did mention about heading for onsen.
There was no natural hot spring in the vicinity, so this was the closest it can get.

We paired off by gender and went straight to wash the dirt off every inches of our skin before the comforting dip of the warm bath.
Stark naked, Sou and myself had a intimate ....chat about our lives and seriously I was amazed he was still only 25 when he was so much matured for his age.
The way he showered card an concern for his wife definitely was a notch higher than myself which I shamefully had to admit.
He also told me that the wedding reception cost him a cool 3 million yen (around S$48K) but i felt it was a norm there perhaps.
There was intention to dropby Singapore to watch the Formula One Grand Prix in the future and I cordially invited him to stay with us when they are here.

Sou said it feels like heaven to gulp down a pint of the finest lager fresh from dipping in hot water, but because of their need to drive he had refrained from it while going for ice-cream instead.
The beer definitely took effect for my wife and me as we slept like babies while Sou ensured a safe journey back to Morioka as the sun was setting at the ripe old hour of 5.

I felt bad 15 minutes from my slumber and decided to keep myself awake for the remains of the journey as poor Sou tried to keep himself focus on a rather narrow route 106.
It was amazing about the lack of street lights as drivers had to bank on alternating their headlights to check for those indicative pillars along the bends.

We made a toilet break as my missus fresh from her nap requested for it and it was starting to get chilly up on the mountain.

Finally we reached Morioka and they looked to fulfill the last item on my missus' request list: karaoke.
So we arrived at this giant karaoke lounge by the name of "Jiyuukan" which offer 24 hour singing and partying service like none other.

The room was well cozy as we were busy selecting the food which act as dinner while choosing what songs to sing.
Eriko also mentioned "飲み放題" meaning drink is free flow which was always up my alley to try their various sour or mocktails.

After the missus kicked start with a rendition of News' "星をめざして", Eriko went for Kobukuro's "Tsubomi" while Sou started the first of his 3 The Blue Hearts' songs.
However as usual I was again able to draw surprise admiration from my Japanese acquaintances for my knowledge of J Pop songs, old and new and how well I could perform them.

I went for some really old tracks for the night including from the 1970s (もしもピアノが弾けたなら by Nishida Toshiyuki), the 1980s (恋におちて -Fall in love- by Kobayashi Akiko and later Tokunaga Hideaki) and the 1990s (Sukui Onna by Sharan Q) which proved to be some sort of entertainment value for my hosts.

The karaoke session lasted for a couple of hours before Sou looked visibly shagged out and with his consumption of beer felt he could not drive as they employed the valet service to fetch them back in their own car while sending us back to the hotel along the way.
The night definitely looked early for us as we went for more snacks to accompany for the last night at Hotel Ruiz as we packed for the departure tomorrow.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eriko & Sou s' Wedding Part 2

14th October 2009, Wednesday

The stay at Hotel Ruiz came with complimentary breakfast buffet at their penthouse restaurant, La Fontaine.
Why spent unnecessary when it comes in free?

The view was decent, not spectacular but on a clear day we can see the mountain ranges encircling the capital city of Iwate as well as how it was void of those skyscraper of a modern metropolitan city.

We gave ourselves a good an hour and a half for dressing up with the missus especially required the luxury of time to doll up
Then at the stipulated time of 10.15, donned in our best outfit, we rendezvous with the stars of the day who came in cab.

The venue of the reception was a good 10 minutes drive away as it crossed this highway to some sort of a heartland where we had been to a large shopping mall of the name of AEON 3 years back.

Back in February, they mentioned that they had intended to host the reception in the traditional style in a jinja (shrine) which had got us anticipated but they made an U-Turn to go for the modern style which was an experience by itself.

Marry de Mana (you just gotta have some pretentious French feel to the name) was a well manned operation to ensure their wedding ceremony ran right off the script and had a supporting cast inclusive of personal assistants to each of them as well as later as we have seen a dashing valet (whom the missus was itching to take a picture with), a band of well groomed and trained waiters, an announcer (emcee) with a voice that sooth the most arduous situation, an organ playing musician who had a repertoire of classics and English oldies and some of the best flower arrangement team.
This was in addition to the quirky make-up artist cum hair stylist as well as the photographer who for the most of the day trying to balance with that 2 bazooka of a camera of his while trying to keep his clients and their guests going, not neglecting his eye for details; both of whom may or may not be part of the package.

The theme of the wedding was "Hawaii" which saw them decorating the hall with palm trees and the slew of Hawaiian style tunes during the wedding itself.just added on the mood.

For the first hour or so, Eriko was ushered to the dressing room while Sou made some last minute preparation before they went through with the rehearsal.
The two of us just wandered around like a kid in a toy shop to check on the various details of the reception hall, mainly to kill time.

The two items that caught our attention first and foremost were on each seat laid a big bag of goodies which looked like an exaggerated wedding favor (or souvenir) from the newly-weds.
It was apparent that they had put in a lot of effort to come out with the gift items which had some personal touches from individual to individual.
It seems like they had shipped back a carton load of items they had purchased from Hawaii such as the local wine, T shirt and in our case pineapple salad dressing to share with their loved ones.

Sad to admit it, the rolly polly caricature character sure looks like yours truly

One every single serving plate was a well drawn caricature of the person who was invited and assigned to that specific seat.
They said it was done by a professional and sure look like a great souvenir on itself.

With a good 2 hours to burn, the missus decided to drag me to a mega shoe outlet just around the corner where her undying search for that elusive pair of boots continued.
There was little surprise it failed to transpired but it did not stop her from buying another piece of garment from the jean warehouse just across the road.
It was Saturday morning, quite close to noon but the place was definitely a zombie town...

A bit more of hanging around once we got back but soon Eriko was preen and ready for a photo shoot together with Sou in a sparkling off white tuxedo matched with equally glaring white shoes.
Somehow the photographer made the most of the limited backdrop just outside Marry de Mana, even ourselves and the quirky make-up artist were being plucked to add the numbers.

Sou putting on the veil on his beautiful bride

We became glorified backdrop during the shoot

Eriko was known to be a very emotional person since that teary goodbye at the wanko soba restaurant many moons back.
When her aged grandmother came struggling down from the bus her side of the family rented to bring them down from their home town a good hour away, she started messing up her make-up when her tear glands were activated again.

Sou's father tried to make a conversation with us and I tried to decipher with that limited comprehension of Japanese though I did get the last part about just enjoy drinking or something.
His sister Mayu was donned in a nice kimono which was a few we spotted in that afternoon.
There was no presence of Sou's mother whom we realized later that she was suffering from an illness which made her bedridden at home.
Let's hope she'll recover real soon.

Punctuality is a good virtue one has to inculcate and perhaps in Japan, there was little tolerance of being late, so unlike our local wedding banquet, the reception began right on time as we settled at our table filled with Eriko's paternal aunts who tried their best to make conversation.
While one of her uncle was losing sight (literally), the other was a sort of a voyeur when he kept taking pictures of us.

Before the procession began, the announcer highlighted the fact that we had brought with us the Singaporean delicacy (remember the bak gua) and distributed among the tables.
We only bought 2 small boxes so you could imagine the 80 guests having to take a measly piece each.
Somehow they love it and we were cast into the spotlight for the gift as we were prompted to stand and bow.
Uncomfortable moment and it was just the beginning.

So the event began with the entry of the bride in the arms of his doting father who was donning similar tuxedo as his in-laws.
Instead of the usual wedding march or Ave Maria, the music played was something of a Beatles' classic, what a queer choice.

Mr Matsuzaki must have mixed feeling seeing his only child being finally another man's wife.

When the bashful bride was handed to the composed groom, they would exchanged vows and made their signature under the watchful eyes of their mentors at work.
Then the adorable Kororo, the baby of the party (literally) came with the rings before a slightly older hyperactive boy Tsubasa-kun said grace to kick start the dining.

It was definitely weird to serve French cuisine for a Hawaiian-themed reception but it was tasy no less as we worked the utensils inwards.
Though eating Foie gras was unethical in the way they reared the ducks or geese for their liver, it was definitely a gastronomical adventure.
The steak was really Michelin restaurant blue-list level and I helped myself with 2 servings as the missus had abstained from it of course.
But the star attraction for me was the pastry which the newly-weds had to serve in the ending featurette of their reception, just outside in the garden area cum smoking point.

The lime green gown is definitely in sync with Sou's khaki colored tuxedo. Eat that Fann Wong and Christopher Lee!

In fact food took a backseat for the amount of alcohol on show.
The crew constantly load the table with Kirin lager while one can choose from the range of wines, cocktails and Japanese shochu.
The parents of both sides had been carrying out their social etiquette to go around and serve beer to every single guests while after a string of unsuccessful foray into unleashing the while screwed cork from the champagne bottle using a sword, Sou did the next best thing that was to just dislodged using the brute force by his bare hands.
The champagne which I noticed was from the famous Martini brand was simply delicious and we helped ourselves with a few servings and everyone started looking tipsy enough.

Sometime things do not go according to plan.

The truth is that the newly-wed had very little time to get some food into their system.
After returning to the stage with a change of outfit, it was their fathers' turn to deliver some words of congratulations (the bosses done it earlier and was close to a National Day Rally as possible).
Then followed by a video montage of their growing up years before a look of their trip to Hawaii.
In between the groom was joined by his band of close friends in a duel of wanko soba while the bride who was musically inclined was joined by a chum from their school band days to deliver a clarinet-saxophone duet with a medley of "Amazing Grace" (The Japanese simply love that song) and "A Whole New World".
We were also being asked by the announcer to deliver some fitful words after flying such great distance to attend the wedding.
In truth, we looked set to make a mockery out of ourselves with our gibberish but it was enough to make Eriko teared again.

The entire luncheon lasted for a good 2 and a half hours with everyone pretty much doused in alcohol, wondered where all the food went and high on the occasion.
The couple made a final waltz around the tables as Styrofoam hearts were floating illustriously off the ceiling.
It had to be the most aesthetically eye-catching moment of the whole reception and they even had gifts in store for those who snatched hearts with a certain indication on them.

Like our own post-banquet practice with the parents joining the newly-weds to bid farewell to guests who graced the occasion, except in this case they were distributing Hawaiian Host chocolates out like it was Easter.

We left for our hotel on a cab as we had the evening for ourselves.
However fatigue started to eat in, as we wandered about the shopping street within the train station before coming back to the warmth of the hotel room laden with truckload of finger food.

We spent Saturday night fixated in front of the small LCD TV as Fuji TV was reminiscing 50 years of comedy of the likes of Beat Kitano, Shimura Ken, Akashiya Sanma, Tunnels, SMAP on variety shows while on rival network, NTV (Nippon Terebi) was having a 3 hours competition show of all the upcoming programmes for the fall which also include Anpan man and Detetctive Konan in the line-up.
As it was these couple of weeks were the transition period between seasons and the networks would dish out special programs before the new fall line-up were unleashed.

Sunday would start early as the couple would bring us to Miyako.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eriko & Sou s' Wedding Part 1

13th October 2009, Tuesday

Would you travel a good 5688km or so to attend the wedding of friends whom you could not converse fluidly without being hindered on what word you had to boggle your mind with the limited command of native language the other person is speaking.
Friends who we had not been able to see on regular basis and until days before we had seen for like 4-5 times in the past 6 years.
But when Eriko and Sou had sent their invitation for the wedding on the auspicious date of 10th October, we just could not resist the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a traditional Japanese wedding reception or so we thought.

With the air tickets booked at a way appealing price too from Singapore Airlines, we just needed to work on the packing as well as what gifts to buy as the date to fly off drew near.

The flight on the Airbus was comfy (as compared to the return flight) though the Kris Air system over at our end had to run out of service for most of the flight, well on the flipside it made me catch a wink which was a rare phenomenon for me on the usual night flight.
On our flight, there was a Scottish who wore their traditional kilt throughout the flight while his son had the "kamikaze" headband around his forehead.
Then from his T shirt, I realized they were Singapore-based Tartan Army (name of Scottish football fans) who were bound for Tokyo to catch a friendly between their country and the Japanese national team at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday.
When bundled with the rest of the crew, those Scottish started making a din in the most serious place of the Narita Airport, the immigration counter.

Time was of the essence the second we landed at Narita Airport Terminal One as we had like 8 hours or so to get our objectives made at the capital of Japan.

We might have had 30 minutes extra if the queue at the midori mado (JR Green Window) had not be asphixiating as many Thai and united Asian population who like ourselves aimed to get their JR passes.

Despite the spiraling fear of the repercussion of Typhoon Melor, the one that known as Typhoon No. 18 which was going to be the most destructive one in 20 years, it left as fast as it appeared with Aichi Prefecture the main focal point to suffer the brunt of its force.
As a good Geography teacher will teach you about the composition of a storm, the skies will definitely open up wonderfully after each storm and it was what had welcomed us on Friday morning as the weather was just great without the need of lugging an extra jacket around.

Guess who came and welcome us at Tokyo Station?

Ueno was the first stop where we left the luggage in those giant rental cabinets before trying to find our bearing to Ameya Yokocho to seek that elusive pair of shoes for myself and for the missus, a themed mission of getting the boots she desired.
It was autumn and it was boots galore at all apparel stores except none was accustomed to fit my poor wife who felt her ankles were not Japanese-enough to fit those beauty of the boots.

I did got what I came for, a pair of Nike Air with what you would call in psychedelic color while the missus ended up without her boots though she did splurged on clothing in perhaps the find of the trip, a boutique selling classy ladies' apparels without the cut-throat price tags.

We then made our way to Nakano via the shortest route possible, via Rapid Chuo Line from Kanda station.
For rare finds, I always chose Nakano over Akhabara and it proved to be a fruitful trip as I did got what I came for after a good 60 minutes scouting every inch of the Nakano Broadway.
Realizing I was on a shoestring budget, I withheld my spending although nothing much caught my attention to be exact.

The shinkansen we were scheduled to take, Hayate 27 would depart Ueno station at 5.07pm and after stocking ourselves with some pudding and onigiri, we tried to locate the exact platform in the labyrinth below the Ueno Station and it was extremely infatuating especially you had to lug a 21 kg heavy suitcase without any electrical assistance.

The seats we were allocated were a 3-seater meaning by the time the train made its planned stop at Omiya, an elderly man in the typical tweed jacket would be joining us, not that it mattered as both of us were knocked cold as the sun made its descent across the horizon.

As the train departed from Sendai to Morioka, I started to feel a tingle down my spine as if a sign was showing me that the temperature had dropped drastically up north and true as it was, when we got on the all familiar platform of Morioka Station, I was all chilly and had to unleash my Zara jacket.

It was always heart-warming to see familiar faces peering across the barricade or window to come full fledged in receiving you after a long trip.
The sight of Eriko and Sou definitely warmed us up as the unforgiving breeze blew into the station.

The logical thing to do first was to unload the energy-sapping pink baggage at Hotel Ruiz where we were staying for the next 3 nights.

The room as we were exclaimed to be semai (narrow) but still better Toyogo Inn where we stayed in 2007, which was a stone throw away.


As the hospitable hosts as they were, we were invited for dinner to appease the gastronomical storm in our digestive system (little did they know we weren't exactly that famished after the onigiri and the pudding).
Well reimen (cold noodle) wasn't the best way to warm the stomach though the turgid glass noodles was still too sumptuous to reject and whoever put a slice of juicy and sweet Japanese pear in a bowl of spicy noodles?

The accompanying yakiniku (grilledmeat) though was was it was appetizing especially when Sou was zealous in preparing it for us, and it went down smoothly and exquisitely with that pint of fine malt beer.

The hosts at work

We chatted a bit of their preparation for the big day tomorrow (though legally they were bound) and how in Chinese traditional, the newly weds were not to meet up on the eve of their customary.
They also showed us some pictures of their honeymoon cum photo taking session at Hawaii which looked legitimately enjoyable for the couple.

We did not drag it long for the night as all four of us needed ample quality rest before a long day the following day.
We left them with a couple of box of bak gua we bought from the airport as we though to be used as gifts for their friends whom we thought we might be meeting for dinner after the reception.
It turned out it was a personal thing and we were excused from it.
In the end, we instructed to them that the bak gua would be served for their friends to savor during their dinner but little did we know that it would prompt us into the spotlight in the wedding reception itself.


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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Prez Relinquished his Role Part 2

6th October 2009, Tuesday

The bride's home was in the heartland of Bishan and by the expressway it was a good 20 minutes as we stay tuned to the nonchalant voice of the simulated lady announcer off CS' Global Positioning System.
I was assigned to be the chap that bear the customary practice of opening the door of the nuptial wagon; and I constantly joked about going to the wrong household such as an Indian one.
I nearly did as from where we had parked, I had the misconception of the exact block to head towards.
Ultimately, I had became redundant as the bride's brood had a dashing lad ready to do the occasion and TW in his best looking tuxedo was ready to receive his bride.

As mentioned prior, there was no usual "gate-crashing" shenanigans although the supporting casts were present on both sides.
The groom though still had to pronounce his undying love for his bride-to-be in front of family and friends.
My buddy was more receptive for those mushy lines yet it was an ordeal for him to go so in depth with the declaration though everyone knows it was not skin deep.

This was followed by the serving of the tea to the elders. Usually for the bride, it would be carried out in a return trip but in this case with the luncheon beckoning, they just got on to it there and then. The trio of us were really standing aside in a state of redundancy except CS was totally drenched in his own perspiration as the morning heat was too excruciating to take.

The return trip was definitely not a smooth ride as CS nearly broke into an alteration with a van driver who was adamant not to be cut his lane by the flashy white Lancer.
My friend who had like many Singaporean drivers had extremely short fuses on the road, decided to sped and overtake the van before signaling his conquest with a blasting of his car horn.
I was sure if that driver was a healthy lad with a few other ruffian-like accomplices, all hell would break loose at the middle of Jalan Eunos.

Back at TW's ivory white maisonette, the relatives were ready to welcome the new member of the family as the toddler and the dog were starting to draw attention as usual.
There was slight delay to the whole tea serving procession as one of the auntie had yet to arrive.
Therefore the free time was used to take family photos while we started to assume the roles of props or merely security due to our lack of involvements.
When we were next to take pictures with the newly-wed, it seemed like the lens were not directed towards us as we had been ostracized.

My buddy was an emotional sop bag on his big day as he choked on words twice on perhaps the biggest day of his life.
First instance was when he was serving tea to his aunts from the paternal side. His emotions perhaps was triggered with respect to his late grandma who was tad too late to grace this happy day.

By around 10 am, the skies around the island were overcasted with an impending storm on its way, there had been news with regards to wretched traffic jams on all major expressways.
The nuptial wagon took some key personnel together with the bride's entourage to the venue of the luncheon, Traders Hotel while CS made his way to pick up his lass who was still caught up with her work.

Foo and myself were to take a ride on one of the aunties' car and it happened to be the parents of TW's cousin, Sarah whom I had went on my very first Japan trip with and whom I adopted the reference of "Jia Biao Jie (doppelganger cousin)".
Along the trip to Tanglin road, we chatted about the atrocities of foreign maids these days, in such a way that you can't live with them yet you can't live without them.

The ballroom/hall for the solemnization ceremony and the buffet luncheon was a rather elongated room but narrow enough to fit just 2 tables side by side.
It did seemed like they had prepared the tables at the very last minute which crossed TW's old man.

By 11 plus, most of the guests had arrived including CS with Lili and Michelle who got stranded around Tanglin Mall somehow.
But there was no sight of the missus who was responsible to send my parents from home.
It seemed like the traffic jam was not showing sign of receding and they would eventually miss the march-in, the solemnization from the justice of peace, the cake (real) cutting ceremony and TW's speech to thank the parents on both sides when he choked for the second time for the day.

My family did arrived in time for the buffet which was quite a spread of cold seafood, sushi, pasta, yakitori, stewed beef, grilled fish with cheese and potato and tasty looking desserts.
My old man was harping over how good the food was and how convenient it was as compared to having the traditional banquet.

With the newly weds being swamped to mingle with friends and families who they had not seen on regular basis, we just had our usual banter usually circling the colorful co-workers of CS whom he mentioned the night before.

Not before long, we lured the couple over to take some pictures with us as seen below:

The Wreckers, all tied up

Somehow you knew we would not stay sane for long.

Foo doing a great impersonation of one of CS' paranoid colleague.

21 years of friendship and more to come

The lunch ended at a good 2 plus when some friends remained to catch up old times while it was all soggy outside.
We had a chance to have a look at the complimentary suite which was pretty impressive but they might be too drained to really enjoy the amenities and facilities.

We bid farewell soon after that with Lili still needed to go back to work while under the insistence of the missus, we had a comprehensive stroll around ION Orchard which really put the "high" in "high end shopping".
There was struck of good luck in the evening as my mom and missus placed a bet on 4D for the car plate number and struck consolation.
The winning sum was quite negligible but it was something to cheer about especially for Mom who had always welcome winning lottery money from any avenues.

The whole event seemed to last shorter than it actually was and now we looked forward to the next wedding from perhaps CS who looked the most probable, well we never know, do we.
Japanese word of the day: 感情的 (Emotional) It had been emotional day, either in the tea serving, speech giving or simply on the road

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