Photography, The organised chaos

Tokyo rave: Yanesen

One of the surprises of the trip was definitely Yanesen. It’s a quiet residential area that’s bound by three different sectors: Yanaka (“ya”), Nezu (“ne”) and Sendagi (“sen”). There are no attractions, no malls, no big wheels to be seen. But it’s a quintessential slice of the Japanese life and supposedly a throwback to the olden days of Tokyo.

Of course, if you intend to check out Yanesen, do ensure that you are equipped with a proper map. We had a vague map that had no clear directions (entirely my fault) so we got lost and didn’t see what we had set out to see, namely the Tsukijibei Fence (which is said to resemble fences seen in ninja movies) and “the area with many temples”. Heck, even if we did get to the right places, we probably didn’t realise it.

Buckets at a shrine
Buckets at a shrine

But that said, we had a lovely morning touring the place because it was just so different from fast-paced Tokyo city and its tall buildings and bright lights. We got extremely lost (as in don’t-know-where-we-were-AT-ALL lost), explored some shrines (the pictures in the previous post were taken at Yanesen) and even stumbled upon a primary school having its sports day.

That was fun! Their idea of a sports day is to involve the parents and we saw families spreading picnic mats there, having a ball of a time cheering the kids on. Husband and I stood there for a long time, laughing and shouting and clapping along.

Run, boy, run!
Run, boy, run!

We also found a street full of hawkers peddling food, clothes and household wares. Unfortunately, husband got yelled at by an obasan for trying to take her photo. But it was quite a street, I must say, crowded and full of colours and noise.

If you have time to spare while in Tokyo and want to experience a quieter pace of life, I highly recommend Yanesen. To get there, take the train to Nippori station and through the North-west exit.

More photos of Tokyo here.
Photos of our Osaka-Kyoto leg are here.

Two of Us

Married life #7

Husband and I were watching Julie & Julia over a yummy mac & cheese dinner and during the movie, Paul Child toasts his larger-than-life wife Julia (Meryl Streep is such a wonderful, wonderful actress!) and calls her “the butter to my bread, the breath of my life”.

I turned to the husband and asked, Am I the butter to your bread?

Without blinking, he replied, You are the butter, the kaya, the Nutella, everything I need on my bread.

****************

In the movie, whenever Julie Powell made dinner, her sweet husband Eric would take a bite and go “mmm that’s so good mmm mmm MMM”. Or something like that. His face would also contort into an expression that can only be described as gastronomic orgasm.

You never do that when I cook, I groused.

He gave me a “you are so dramatic” look and replied, I finish EVERYTHING you make!

I guess that’s validation enough.

At Shashlik during our wedding anniversary

(PS If you haven’t watched Julie & Julia, please do! It’s so uplifting and fun. Meryl Streep is amazing. Her chemistry with Stanley Tucci is so warm and genuine and she made me laugh the minute she appeared on the screen. The cooking and food are inspirational. Yum!)

The organised chaos

Tokyo rave: Citadines Tokyo Shinjuku

And the recap begins!

The TV can be slid from the lounge area to the bed. Clever!
The TV and various set-top boxes can slide from the lounge area to the bed. Clever!

When we were hunting for accommodation for our Tokyo trip, we were quite concerned about prices. Most of our friends’ suggestions hovered at the S$200 mark and above, and we came to the conclusion that this was probably the average price for our hotel stay.

Cousin Ching, who works at The Ascott, mentioned to me that her company had just launched Citadines Tokyo Shinjuku not too long ago and suggested I check it out. The rates sounded reasonable enough and the online reviews were glowing so I decided to bite the bullet and book a studio apartment for our stay in Tokyo. I wasn’t planning on asking my cousin for discounted rates because I knew it would put her in an awkward position, and tried to book the room through the website.

Thankfully for us, the booking did not go through due to lack of availability. I emailed the cuz, told her about the situation and emphasized that we were willing to pay the full rate as long as we can get a room. Being ever so efficient, she forwarded my mail to her Japanese colleagues immediately. It turned out that the company has to divide up their rooms among the different tour operators and websites, leaving a small number of rooms for their own website, which happened to be filled. But yes, there was a room available for us and we would be offered a 25 percent discount, which was part of a 25th anniversary promotion Citadines was running worldwide.

Bingo! Including taxes and all, our stay there cost less than S$200 a night. The room was large enough for two, extremely comfortable and had free Internet connection (which made husband extremely happy). The location of the apartment is great: it’s a mere five-minute walk to the nearest subway station. Surrounding the building was an enclave of convenience stores and eateries and we could also walk to the nearest Isetan department store in Shinjuku.

The hotel staff was also wonderful. I was dying to check out Ghibli Museum but the entrance tickets were sold in advance only at the Lawsons convenience stores in Japan and the various JTB offices around the world. JTB, being a shrewd company, would only sell the tickets as a package with a hotel stay, which we did not need.

I emailed the sales coordinator and asked if there was someone who could help me purchase the tickets. She kindly offered to help me out and the tickets were placed into my hands upon our arrival. Points for efficiency!

All in all, we had a lovely stay at Citadines Tokyo Shinjuku and would definitely select the service apartment when we go back to Tokyo. Thanks cuz!

A sliding door cleverly divides the bed and the lounge area
A sliding door cleverly divides the bed and the lounge area

More photos here

Arts & Entertainment

It’s a rockin’ 2010

Muse. February 3, 2010. Singapore Indoor Stadium.

And possibly…

The Killers. February 13-21. Sydney/Perth/Melbourne.

Failing which, we could just head to Big Day Out and catch Muse, Lily Allen, Groove Armada and The Temper Trap all at one gig.

Oh my gawd! Watching Brandon Flowers and Matt Bellamy live would make me a very happy girl indeed. Hopefully, Muse performing in Indoor Stadium would be as epic as their concert at Wembley. That was sheer perfection.

Now, if only I can find a way to catch Gary Lightbody live too.

Foodnotes

Happy meal #11 Failure!

It’s pretty obvious that not all of my cooking endeavours end happily ever after. There are times when it’s a complete hit and then there are times when it’s a tragic miss. This is an example of a sad miss.

Moonblush tomatoes
Moonblush tomatoes

It started off pretty well: with two packs of cherry tomatoes, I embarked on making moonblush tomatoes from Nigella Express. I love tomatoes and these were easy enough to prepare. Leave them overnight and voila! you get lovely tasty tomatoes the next day. The oven smelt aromatic too, thanks to the combination of olive oil and thyme.

With a huge plate of tomatoes and no other ingredients in the fridge, I decided to make us healthy pasta. There was a can of button mushroom sitting in the cupboard so I took that out too, chopped it up and chucked it into the pan to be cooked in the oil from the tomatoes. I should have stopped there but no, Nigella wannabe here was emboldened by her bravado the previous time and meddled with the simplicity of the meal.

I added juice from a lemon and simmered the mushroom in the juice. Oops. Mistake! Too much juice and cooked for too long. By the time I realised my folly, the mushrooms were SOUR. As in REALLY SOUR. As in SUPER LEMON SOUR. I tried to counter the taste by adding in some white wine and it helped a little but it was too late.

Thankfully, after tossing the pasta in the juices and mixing it up with the tomatoes, it didn’t taste as bad as it did initially but it definitely wasn’t too happy a meal. Poor husband. He not only had to put up with a tangy dinner, he was also distraught that there was NO MEAT. He might have wailed a little.

Lesson learnt: Simplicity is good.

Looks good, tasted blah
Looks good, tasted blah

The organised chaos

Perfect Sunday

Husband and I have gotten into this routine of cleaning the house on Saturday. I know, it’s odd, we are supposed to be going out to paint the town red on Saturdays, right? But it’s worked out fine – east end gets a good wash and we head out in the late afternoons for dinner.

And on Sundays, we chill. Sometimes we head to the gym for a light workout and a swim. Other times, we just stay in, cook lunch and then head to the supermarket to get groceries. In the afternoon, I’d grab a magazine or a book, cut up an apple, pour myself a glass of wine and nestle in the balcony.

These moments are just pure bliss.