Posted in Personal, Relationships, Writing

The Importance of Being Alone

I recently had a conversation with a friend about her love life. In the midst of our talk, she made a comment about my relationship status (or the lack thereof) that kind of stuck in my head.

“Maybe it’s because you are so independent, that you can handle not having a relationship for a long time.”

To be honest, she was kind of right. My last relationship was almost 2 years ago. Before that I was single for almost a decade (college years and starting a job). After having long-term relationships, I found myself to be the happiest now, when I am alone.

I do have to admit that when I was younger, I planned of having the typical life of a girl:

  • Have a steady boyfriend during college.
  • Graduate at 21.
  • Get a job after graduation.
  • Get married at 25.
  • Have my own family before I’m 30.

But things don’t always go according to plan.

I never did have a boyfriend during college – not surprising since most of my classmates were girls. However, I did graduate on time, and got a job that allowed me to work here in Japan now. Currently, I am 29 years old, and blessedly single.

It’s actually not too bad.

Being alone right now is kind of refreshing – liberating even.

I lived most of my life with my parents and my sister. I love them dearly, but sometimes living under the same roof can be suffocating. I briefly lived with my partner a few years ago. It turned out to be a toxic relationship, and I’ve felt more isolated and lonelier than when I was actually by myself.

Now, I am alone – both geographically and in terms of romantic relationship. I had a few dates in the past year, but my heart never fully settled on one. Despite all that, I don’t feel truly lonely or isolated.

Being alone right now gave me the freedom to do the things I’ve always enjoyed, but got judged with before.

  • I wear the clothes I like.
  • Shoe-shopping is a leisure, not a stress-reliever.
  • I read books whenever I want.
  • Traveling anywhere and anytime.
  • I can either stay-in or go out, my choice.
  • Going back to my passions of writing and painting.

I’ve also enjoyed doing new things that I was too scared to do. I went on extended vacations by myself (Kyoto and Nara). I tried going to bars and restaurants on my own. I finally got to cross off “watch a movie at a cinema by myself” from my bucket list. I enrolled in a yoga class!

I am slowly honing my independence, and rediscovering myself in the process. I love my friends and family, but the many years of relying to everyone’s opinion has led me to bury my true self. I am just starting to find my way back.

And to my surprise, this period in my life has been a great help to my mental health. I can now easily express what I feel because I no longer fear judgement. I still have some setbacks because of my anxious nature, but I am trying my best to get better.

So, you see, being alone at this moment of my life is an important milestone in my journey.

I’m finally learning to be comfortable in my own skin. And I found things that make me happy without the need to rely on anybody else.

So, yes, I may be “too independent” to be in a relationship right now. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not really in a rush to meet society’s expectation of me. This period of independence and freedom is something not everybody can enjoy, so I want to take advantage of this as long as I can.

By being alone, I’ve found comfort and peace within me. For that, I am truly happy.

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Posted in Personal, Poetry, Relationships, Writing

One Day

One day,

Everything between you two will change

The things you’ve gotten used to

Will be those you’ll miss the most

Mornings and nights will pass

Without a word from her lips

Soon you’ll forget the sound of her voice

All the quirks and nuisances

That annoyed you to no end

Will just be memories you’ll look back to.

One day,

You’ll sleep quietly at night

Without that long conversations

You used to have with her

And you will wake up

In the silence, even in her presence

She will no longer look at you

Like the sun rises in your eyes

And you’ll wish you’ve looked at her

More times than you could count.

One day,

Everything you’ve believed in

About love and friendship

Will slowly disappear over time

And the person you once hold dearest

Will just be another stranger

A face among the many faces

And the things that made you happy

Will just be pieces of photographs

You’ll keep in a box full of memories.

One day,

She’ll grow tired and move on

You’ll be left with nothing to hold

And you will look back to this day

Wishing you’ve done things differently

Hoping you could go back in time

And be someone better

For her and for yourself

So, don’t take her for granted

Don’t brush her aside

Don’t let these precious moments pass by

Don’t let that “one day” happen today.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Think Cersei Deserves Better – My GOT Rant

Warning:

This is a rant about a fictional character in a fictional world. These are my personal opinions about a story that I have watched and invested an emotional attachment with for a long time. Discussions are welcome, bashing is not. 🙂

I am assuming you’ve watched the latest episodes at this time, if not, spoilers ahead.

Ok. Let’s start, shall we?

I know Cersei was one of the villains in the story. But Lena Headey’s amazing acting skill made her so believable and she turned Queen Cersei into one of those character you love and hate.

So, why do I think she deserved better?

I actually think she deserved a better ending than the one she got. A better death than the way she was written off.

She was such a strong character and I was really hoping that she’d go out with a bang. But instead, I had to watch her die at the crypt, trying to sneak out of her home. Yes, she had Jaime, the man she loved, with her. But I felt that it was still a cowardly way for such a formidable woman.

I mean, she survived a lot in her life:

  • She lost her mother at a young age.
  • She survived Robert’s War.
  • She was forced to stay in an unhappy marriage.
  • She kept her incestous affair a secret for a long time.
  • She outlived the Baratheon brothers.
  • All her children, the only other persons she loved, were killed or committed suicide.
  • She became queen of the seven kingdoms.
  • Her brothers betrayed her.
  • She was imprisoned and had to endure the walk of shame.
  • She was almost forced in another unhappy union (Loras).
  • She had to basically sold herself for Euron’s alliance. (And the Golden Company, too)
  • And she didn’t get her elephants. (That’s a joke. XD)

And she came out of all these stronger and scarier than ever. She took the pain of loss and betrayal and made it her armor. She knew the people of Westeros didn’t love her, but they fear her, and she used that fear a lot.

She was not a good leader, that’s a fact. But she was a cunning woman who’d use anyone and anything to get her way. And she had gotten her way most of her life, be damned to those who disagreed with her. Seven seasons of a “hell hath no fury” attitude and she goes down on one episode via a collapsed ceiling.

Where is the justice in that???

When I was re-watching all the other episodes before that penultimate end, I kind of formulated some justified way to end Cersei’s arc in the story.

I was really hoping she’ll survive Dany’s slaughter (that was not a war, it was a slaughter). And she’d be a prisoner under Dany’s rule. There may be a trial, but she’d be found guilty and sentenced to death. And she’d be burned alive in front of all King’s Landing, but she’d die with defiance in her eyes and contempt in her last words.

Or maybe Arya would kill her as the Mountain was busy with Sandor. And she would fall from the Red Keep’s balcony with every one watching her from below.

But the best scenario in my head was actually her death by Jaime’s hand (no pun intended). It would be the ultimate betrayal for her, and a redemption for him. It will be a complete circle for the two people that started everything.

These are just some of the ways she could have ended. I really feel there’s a poetic justice in any of the scenario I imagined in my head. Dying in a crypt, crying and begging is not Cersei’s personality, at all.

Some people will say that Cersei’s fear was normal for an expectant mother. She did have to think of her unborn child. But remember the Battle of Blackwater Bay? She was willing to sacrifice her life and Tommen’s so they would not endure Stannis’s rule and/or die. She wouldn’t let anyone else dictate her life.

It’s the same at Dany’s invasion. The Cersei of the past seven seasons wouldn’t go down without a fight. If all was lost, she would still do anything in her power to make sure she has the last words.

She was a Queen. She lost a lot to become the Queen. She deserved a spectacular ending.

I just really feel that season 8 episode 5 has been a let down. I know making a huge show like Game of Thrones is not easy for the writers, producers and the crew. I just wish they could have written it better. Many of the characters, not just Cersei, lost their personalities in between seasons. A lot of expectations were disappointed after build-up and waiting.

I still love this show and the books. And I will still watch the finale next week. I am just not that hopeful as I was before. Need to lower my expectations, you know.

Anyways, end of rant. Feel free to add your own opinions at the comments. Just be polite and courteous. GOT is just a show, no need to be extreme, ok?

Goodnight and talk to you again soon!

Posted in JapanLife, Social Events

JapanLife: Beginning of a New Era

May 1, 2019 marks the beginning of a new era for Japan and its people. And I am lucky to experience it first hand. Unfortunately, I have work during the coronation day, but I did a few reading about this very auspicious event.

Emperor Akihito has stepped down from the Chrysanthemum Throne last April 30, 2019 – the first imperial abdication in at least 200 years – due to health reasons. This marks the end of the Heisei period which lasted over three decades. As with tradition, Emperor Akihito will not adopt the name “Emperor Heisei” until his death (which we all hope will be VERY far from now) but will henceforth be known as The Emperor Emeritus 「上皇」. His wife, Empress Michiko, will also adapt the title of The Empress Emeritus 「上皇后 」.

Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Princess Masako, will be now known as the Emperor and Empress of the Reiwa Period 「令和」. Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother, Prince Akishino, will be the heir presumptive due to the lack of son from the emperor’s family. There is, however, a rumor (just a rumor!) that Japan laws might change to allow females to take the throne. This would give Princess Aiko a chance to accede to the throne after her father if it ever comes true.

Emperor Naruhito’s accession to the the throne while the previous emperor is still living is not the only non-traditional break he’s done. He is also the first Japanese royal who has placed education atop his priorities. He even studied in Oxford for two years before coming back to Japan to resume his duties as the Crown Prince. He also followed his father’s footstep in marrying outside the royal line and choosing Princess Masako, a former career diplomat. He is a protective husband and father to the two most important women in his life.

Another break he has done was in choosing and approving the name of his new era. The name 令和 has been the cause of some debate on the internet. For one, it is the only era name taken from classic Japanese literature while all previous names were from classic Chinese literature. There was also a debate about it’s meaning.

Some took the kanjis’s individual translation as 「令」decree and 「和」harmony  as a “command for harmony”. However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry provided an unofficial interpretation as “beautiful harmony” as taken from the classic poem from which the characters originated:

時に、初春の月にして、
気淑く風ぎ、
梅は鏡前の粉を披き、
蘭は珮後の香を薫す

It was in new spring, in a fair  month,
When the air was clear and the wind a gentle breeze.
Plum flowers blossomed a beauty’s charming white
And the fragrance of the orchids was their sweet perfume.

A nine-member expert panel chose the new era name with careful consideration, so I’m sure they know what they were doing. Thus, Heisei Period ends its 31st year on April 30, 2019 and Reiwa Period begins on May 1, 2019. The major impact of era change for me is that I am now officially part of the old era (1990 -> Heisei 2), and probably considered as an old person. LOL!

The abdication also meant a change in the way Japan will celebrate the ascension of the new emperor. Before, new emperors are crowned (not literally – there’s no crown involved) after the mourning period following the death of the previous emperor. But since the Emperor Emeritus is still alive, the coronation is one of joyous event to welcome the new imperial leader of Japan.

Therefore, it was decided to celebrate both events in the middle of Golden Week which resulted to a 10-day holiday for most people:

  • April 27 – Saturday preceding the start of Golden Week
  • April 28 – Sunday, extra Holiday
  • April 29 – Showa Day celebrating the birthday of the late Emperor Showa
  • April 30 – Emperor Akihito’s abdication
  • May 1 – Emperor Naruhito’s accession
  • May 2 – extra holiday after coronation
  • May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day
  • May 4 – Greenery Day
  • May 5 – Children’s Day
  • May 6 – End of Golden Week, extra Holiday

During the accession, Emperor Naruhito received two out of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan: the sword Kusanagi「草薙劍 」”Valor” and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama 「 八尺瓊勾玉 」”Benevolence”. The third treasure, the mirror Yata no Kagami 「 八咫鏡 」”Wisdom”, is permanently enshrined at the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. Imperial messengers and Shinto priests will be sent to the shrine and to the shrine-tombs of the previous emperors to announce the accession of the new emperor.

The actual Enthronement Ceremony will take place on October 22, 2019 – another holiday for Japan. There will also be a ritual and procession to receive good wishes from the people to the new emperor. Finally, February 23, 2020 will be the first celebration of Emperor Naruhito’s birthday on the throne.

All in all, this is a good year for Japan and it’s people. Like New Year’s celebration, the people are welcoming this new era with renewed energy and hope. I, for one, am looking forward to the changes the new imperial leader will bring to this country I consider as my second home. 🙂

*image source:
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/30/asia/new-japan-emperor-naruhito-intl/index.html

Posted in JapanLife, Social Events, Travel

JapanLife: Maiko/Geisha Make-over Experience

Hi! I’m back. I recently got very busy with moving from Aichi to Tokyo. And I also had to do training for my new type of work! Anyways, as promised, here is how you can have your very own Maiko/Geisha Experience in Kyoto.

First off, what is a Maiko/Geisha?

A Geisha is a popular and important part of Japanese culture. They are the women who entertain by performing traditional songs, dance, and art. A Maiko, or apprentice, is considered as the peak of Japanese beauty and femininity. And contrary to popular belief, maiko and geisha are not the Eastern equivalent of prostitutes. They are artists trained to perform and preserve traditional arts.

*photo is not mine*

It takes years of school, training and real-life practice to be promoted from maiko to full-fledged geisha.

Thankfully, you can have a taste of at least a little part of this important heritage through a make-over experience.

*photo is not mine*

Gion Aya Make-over Experience offers ladies of all ages the chance to feel like a traditional geisha or maiko for a few hours. You can check out their website and make your own reservation here.

So, after making and confirming your reservation, you’ll need to arrive at the shop at least 10 minutes before your schedule.

Before the make-over, you’ll have to sign forms (English translation are also written). You will also have to choose at least 4 poses from their guide book. Every season, they offer special poses and props, so make sure to try them at least once.

Next stop will be the dressing room. Undergarments are allowed, but everything else will be put in a locker, including jewelry. Phones and cameras are placed in a small bag you can carry along the stages of the make-over.

They will provide you with a kimono undergarment and a pair of tabi (socks). If you’re a first-timer, there is a poster in the locker showing how to properly wear these clothes. If still unsure, you can ask the staff to help you. They are all very kind and speak English.

tabi

After changing clothes, you will be escorted to the make-up room. One suggestion: try to go to the toilet before this stage – you’ll thank me later. (^_−)☆

In the make-up room, you’ll be introduced to your make-up artist/dresser. In my case, it was Yukiko-san, a kimono-dresser instructor in a nearby school. She can understand and speak English well, so I had no problem with communication.

Yukiko-san gave me two options for make-up which will suit my round face: kawaii (cute) or elegant. We both agreed that softer make-up will look good on my features (round face with small round eyes, full nose, and full lips) so, we opted for kawaii. Turns out it means that I’ll be wearing a lot of pink on my face!

Maiko make-up is quite difficult to explain, but I shall do my best:

  1. Hair was bundled and secured with a mesh net. Since my hair was a bit long, a portion from the front was separated to be used later on the wig.
  2. A layer of wax was first applied to protect the skin. It smelled a bit bad, but it was important so that the skin wouldn’t dry under layers of foundation.
  3. White liquid foundation was applied around the upper face. Even the eyebrows were covered with this foundation. A thin space before the hairline was left as was traditional.
  4. Eye make-up was next. I’m not sure what Yukiko-san used, but there were eye shadows of different shades of pink and red. Then I had to keep my eyes closed while she applied very cold liquid eyeliner.
  5. While waiting for the eyeliner to dry, thinner eyebrow lines were drawn over my original eyebrows. She used a combination of black, brown and red to tie it all in.
  6. Then the rest of the face is covered with the same white foundation (including the lips!). The distinct 3 triangle patterns of a Maiko were also drawn at the back.
  7. To finish everything else, bright red lipstick was applied on the lips. As was in the old time, the bottom lip was fully red, and only a portion of the upper lip was painted. This gave the illusion of fuller bottom lip than I originally had.

The make-up process took about 30-45 minutes at least. There were many layers and retouches as the foundation dries. But I think it was all worth it.

Full disclosure: I am allergic to make-up. But, I really wanted to do this. 😛

After the make-up, the wig is attached next. The wig they gave me was arranged in wareshinobu hairstyle, which was what traditional maiko used to wear on their formal debut. The wig was sewn on the mesh net cover to keep it in place. The front part of the wig was covered by my real hair which was pulled and secured using bobby pins. Yukiko-san had to use a black dye spray to hide the brown streaks of my hair into the wig.

Wig and real hair. Heavy wig.

Of course, true maiko and geisha did not wear wigs. They had really long hair that was arranged into intricate and symbolic styles befitting their status. According to Yukiko-san, maiko/geisha had their hairs styled washed and styled only once a week year-round, and at least thrice a week during summer. The rest of the time, they had to keep their hair up at all times of the day. Talk about dedication!

Finally, it was time to put on the kimono. All I had to do was stand still, while the dresser did everything else. As with the make-up, putting on a formal kimono is an intricate task with lots of layers (literally!):

  1. A half-slip cover was placed on top of the kimono undergarment.
  2. Then a hard collar was attached around the shoulder. This will hold the shape of the kimono later on, and show the triangle marks at the back.
  3. I’m not quite sure what it was called, but layers of padding were wrapped around the waist and secured with strips of cloth.
  4. A thin white kimono with a red and gold collar was worn over everything.
  5. Then the silk kimono (of your choosing) was next. Formal kimono has long sleeves, and the hem goes over the feet. This was also secured with strips of cloth.
  6. A small padded pillow was placed at the back. It will be used to create the drum design of the obi.
  7. Next up is the long (and I mean LOOOONNNGGG) obi. It was wrapped around the waist multiple times and secured at the back. After it was wrapped, we noticed that my body looked straight and flat (I am quite curvy and full-bodied). Yukiko-san joked that to wear a kimono, you have to accept looking flat-chested. LOL!
  8. The long obi was tied at the back over the padding. Then a smaller obi with contrasting design was tied around the waist. Lastly, a decorative belt cord was placed over the obi.
  9. Final touches were the hair ornaments. Since my birth month was February, Yukiko-san suggested plum blossoms pins.
plum-blossom hair ornament

Dressing probably took another 20-30 minutes and I think I was wearing at least 10 layers of cloth after all that. There were certain rules on how to wear formal kimono, like which side to put inside and how to properly fold the excess fabric. Good thing the dressers at Gion Aya are all professionals at this. They will help you select the best style and color of kimono, and dress you up deftly and efficiently.

After dressing, it was time for the professional photographer to take the pre-selected photos. The studio was like a formal teahouse, with extra space for close-up shots.

the cold winter air was blowing through the open window

I admit I am not very good at posing pictures. But with the help of the photographer, Mayumi-san, I think my photos came out quite good. She directed me where to sit, stand and look. It was actually fun!

She took at least a dozen of posed photos and two candid shots. For the package I chose, 4 of those poses were printed, and everything else were saved in an USB device. One candid shot was printed in wallet-size and I was asked to write a message on it. This would be added to their guest book along with all their clients’ photos.

Full formal kimono with teahouse backdrop

After the professional photo shoot, I was given 10 minutes of free time. If I had a companion at that time, maybe we could do our own photo shoot anywhere. But I was by myself, so all I could take was a lot of selfies and videos. Mayumi-san was kind enough to accompany me for a few minutes and took some photos of using my phone. XD

After the free time, another staff helped me to undress all the layers of the kimono. Then I was led to the locker to wash my hair and face. I had to use a lot of baby oil and cotton wipes to completely remove all traces of the thick make-up. I also had to wash my hair over the sink, which was a little uncomfortable.

When I was dressed and back to my old self, I just had to wait for the printed photos and soft copy. In the waiting room, I was accompanied by the other guests’ male companions. Since the guys only need to change clothes into traditional male kimono, they had to wait for their ladies to finish make-up and put on the layered formal kimono (a good hour or so).

It was a funny sight, actually. It was a good thing the waiting room had a lot of outlets and free puzzle games. (^v^)

After I received the printed and soft copies, all that was left was payment. For the package I chose, I spent around ¥15,000 which I paid using credit card. Different packages have different rates, and you can also have other add ons. You can check out Gion Aya’s prices here.

I truly believe that a Kyoto adventure wouldn’t be complete without trying this. And I highly recommend Gion Aya for a greatly memorable experience. This is one of the best moments in my life, and I am really glad I got to do it in my 20s. LOL!

So, don’t forget to include this in your Japan adventure itinerary. 🙂

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Writing

Drowning…

I am drowning in the sea of loneliness

Capsized by the storm of my own making

I feel the crash of a thousand waves

As the turmoil within breaks the wall

I am submerged in ice cold water

Tears bursting from my frozen heart

Tossing and turning in this ocean bed

Of a million and one sleepless nights

I am drowning in the darkness

Swallowed whole by my own fears

Gallons of doubts and shame fill my lungs

Heavy waters of anxiety pressing my heart

Until it is too small, too weak to fight

Until there is nothing left inside me

And I am but an empty void

Yearning to be filled by poison water

Longing for the cold darkness

The very thing that kills me

Every day, hour, minute and second

I feel myself falling in the water

My senses dulled by the crashing waves

And my tears become the sea

And the ocean of self-hate I’ve kept hidden inside

Flows out to sweep me away…

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Relationships, Writing

Finding Home

Maybe this is all just a bad dream

And one day we’ll both wake up

Happiness and forever finally within our grasp

Although I know this is but a childish hope

Let me still believe in miracles

Knowing that reality is cold, brutal and harsh

I will hold on to this tiny spark, a small dream

That one day, I’ll be able to hold you close

And I can finally say, “I’m home.”

********

A short poem for the day of hearts. There’s a hidden message within the poem – can you see it?

Posted in JapanLife, Personal, Travel

Kyoto-Nara Solo Adventure (Day 3)

On the 3rd day of my solo adventure, I decided not to make a fully detailed itinerary, but just go with the flow.

So, I woke up later than the first 2 days and enjoyed my time at the library-style hotel. I had coffee (which costs 400 yen on IC) and read Agatha Cristie’s Murder is Easy. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the book.

When I felt like my feet could walk again, I checked out of the hotel and headed to Nara. I’ve always wanted to see the famous free-roaming deer at Nara Park since my friend went there a few years ago.

So, from Book and Bed Kyoto, I rode the Keihan Main Line to Yodoyabashi. I got off Tambabashi station and transferred to Kintetsu Line. When I got to Nara station, I left my luggage at one of the many coin lockers available and walked to Nara Park.

As I was walking towards the park, I saw a shrine with many tourists milling around. So, I took a slight detour and took some photos of the beautiful pagoda. I also saw some deer just chilling around the shrine.

5-storey Pagoda
“don’t mind me… i’m just chillin’ here..”

Without looking at my map, I followed the flow of the crowd towards the central area of the park. Some deer were also following the people. The interesting part was that when the people stopped at the pedestrian crossing, the deer did the same. And when the light lit green, deer and human both crossed the street safely. It was a quite an amazing sight.

Around the park, vendors were selling crackers for 150 yen a bundle. Of course, I bought one bundle and the deer started to follow me. They were sweet and gentle, even when they were trying to get the crackers from my hand. I was lucky to get a close-up photo with one doe that followed me while I was walking through the park.

Rare closed-up photo with a doe

You can generally determine the gender of the deer. The does (female) have smaller bodies and without antlers. The bucks (male) have sawed-off antlers to make them safer to approach especially by children.

After enjoying the company of these sweet creatures, I decided to go into the Nara National Museum where I saw a lot of artifacts relevant to Japanese culture. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the museum, so you’ll just have to visit it yourself to really feel the experience.

The national museum has 2 levels, and 1 annex. You can enter in either buildings and use the underground passage to cross to the other. There were also toilets, lockers and a cafe in the underground passage.

The museum contained paintings, sculptures, scrolls and other artifacts which told the history of Japan. The annex was dedicated solely to Buddhist sculptures and paintings. It was a fun experience to finally see the things I learned in school like the different kinds of potteries (i.e. celadon, song, han), bronze collections, and lacquered boxes.

It took me an hour or so to see all the displays. I tried to read all the descriptions, but it was kind of hard to keep all the information in my head. If you visit the museum and you don’t like to read too much, audio guides are available for rent at the reception for 500 yen. The display markers have numbers on them so can easily skip through the audio guide.

After digesting too much brain food, I felt that it was time to digest actual food. LOL!

Outside the museum, there were food stalls and restaurants offering a variety of food for the hungry stomach. Since the restaurants have longer waiting time, I opted to buy from one of the food stalls.

I did not regret my decision. For 500 yen, I was able to buy these humongous breaded chicken (torikatsu).

500 yen worth torikatsu

After my very late lunch, I still have a lot of time to spare. I once again followed the crowd towards The Great Buddha Hall. I bought tickets for both the hall and the Todai-ji Museum for only 1000 yen.

Photography was allowed inside the Buddha Hall, but not in the museum.

As the sun sets, I decided to buy the souvenirs for my friends and colleagues. Since the bus to Nagoya won’t arrive until 1:30 am, I went back to Kyoto City and stayed in Tops Cafe to try to nap until around 11 pm or so.

I celebrated New Year at Nishiyama Tennozan Station all by myself. LOL!

And that’s the end of my very first 3-day solo adventure in Kyoto and Nara! It was an exhausting journey, but the experience and memories are worth all of it. This might sound like a brag, but I am very proud of myself that I was able to do this on my own. Years from now, these will be some of the best moments of my life. 🙂

Some tips for those who wants to go to Kyoto and Nara:

  1. If you are confident about riding buses, you can save a lot of money if you buy Kyoto Bus Pass. For 600 yen, you can ride all Kyoto buses for the whole day! (I wasn’t confident, so I didn’t do this.)
  2. Kyoto has a lot of shops that offer Maiko-Geisha experience and tea ceremony. Do your research about which one you’d like to go to. Most requires advanced reservation online or by phone.
  3. If the make-over experience is too expensive for your budget, you can still try feeling like a Japanese by renting a Kimono or Yukata. Prices may depend on the season and rental duration.
  4. Bring cash. Some stores and activities do not accept credit cards. Be prepared with cash and coins.
  5. Nara is a beautiful place to explore. Try to reserve at least 1 day to see it. The best time to see the free-roaming dears are at morning or noon.
  6. If you can, try staying at a ryokan (hot spring inns) so you can also enjoy the experience of bathing at onsen. There are certain rules to follow though, so do your homework.

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the tale of my journey. I’ll be posting detailed information about the maiko make-over and tea ceremony experiences soon. Look forward to that.

PS. I am starting to research details for either Golden Week or Obon vacations. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment below. 🙂

Thank you and talk to you again soon! ❤

Posted in Personal, Poetry, reading, Writing

Notebook (A Short Story)

So, I was looking at some of my old tumblr posts and I came across this short story I have written many years ago. It is a short story based on a poem we read in high school.

We were tasked to write our interpretation of the poem. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original poem anymore. But it was a short piece about a man mourning for his lost love.

Below is how I expanded the poem into a short story from the man’s perspective. I hope you enjoy it.

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In my hand, I held a small blue notebook. It was old and almost full. In it were lists and doodles written in her neat handwriting. Some pages were torn, others are stained but all were preserved in its hardbound cover. There are pages filled with seemingly unrelated things: morning, blue, moonstones, etc. Others were like breakfast list: milk, eggs, bread (lightly toasted). There were crossed-out words, highlighted and emphasized. Some were written in different colors, and sometimes in pencil (when she was in a hurry and could not find a pen). In one page, she wrote in bold blank ink, “silver cuff links”. Next to it was a sketch of the cuff links she gave me on my birthday.

In bright red she had written, “no strawberries!!” She loved strawberries but learned to live without them for fear of my allergic reaction. A few pages after, she encircled a single phrase, “blue dress” – the exact dress she wore on the night she said yes. 

Other pages were filled with more words, phrases and more drawings. She had written short poems, long poems and something that might be the beginning of a novella. One page was filled with her name with the surname (my surname) underlined many times. There were things to do: “arrange flowers, sign invitations, find the perfect gown…”. And there were people to call: “mom’s 2nd cousin, my uncle, his uncle…”. 

The next few pages were filled with her everyday routine. The things she did and places she went to; meticulously written.

She documented almost every moment of her day. She wrote my favorite things and things I’d rather avoid. She stayed at home but her days never seemed dull. A few pages after, there were two lists: one for boys’ names and another for girls’. They were written in green ink but crossed out with a black marker.

Then there was a list of doctors’ names all beginning with “Dr.”. Each name written less neatly than the last. As if her dejection was flowing from her heart to her hand. I skipped a few pages – filled with lists of mundane tasks. In another page, she wrote places she wanted to go to, “Paris, London, Ireland, Asia..”. She made dreams to replace the old ones.

I wish I could say that the new ones came true, but I cannot lie. And in the next pages were new names for doctors. People that we never got to meet. People that could have helped if she did not refuse.

After a while, new things were written in my hand (when she couldn’t hold a pen any longer). Medicine names I could not understand, therapies she would not do, things we argued about. After wasting a couple of pages, we have reached a decision and new lists were made, “plot, flowers, eulogy, blue dress”. Still the same dress as before. The last few pages were blank. Each white space amplifying my emptiness.

I closed the notebook with shaking hands.

At the back of the notebook, on the cover itself, she had written: “life is a story. It is not written in sentences or paragraphs, but with words and phrases strung along with our hearts and soul. Mine is a story written with love.” – the very words we wrote on her tombstone.

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Posted in JapanLife, Personal, Travel

Kyoto-Nara Solo Adventure (Day 2)

Day 2 of my solo adventure started with checking out of First Cabin Kyoto Arashiyama and going to Book and Bed Kyoto in Gion.

When I started planning this vacation, I originally wanted to stay for 2 nights at Book and Bed Kyoto. However, one night at that hotel was at least 6000 yen and I really couldn’t afford that. So, I booked the hotel for 1 night only.

Going to the hotel was easy enough using Google maps. However, when I arrived at the location, I only saw a nondescript building with a bakery on the first floor. It took me a few minutes to find the sign pointing to the hotel which was at the 9th floor of the building.

On the 9th floor, there was only a blue door with a book page serving as the logo. The staff was kind and spoke English. I left my luggage until the check-in time at 4pm and went on to my next stops.

Kyoto Tower

I have a fear of falling from high places. But I also have this weird urge to climb towers and anything high. I guess, I like the adrenaline rush? LOL. So, Kyoto Tower was definitely included in my itinerary.

To reach the observation deck, you’ll need to enter the Kyoto Tower building and buy tickets on the first floor. The ticket costs 770 yen, but it also includes a discount coupon for the public bathhouse located at the tower basement (B3F). You’ll then go to the 3rd floor where the elevator to the deck starts. The observation deck is on the 11th floor and has a lot of free binoculars, and some souvenirs for sale. There’s also a mini shrine where you can read your fortune.

Kyoto was an amazing view from 100m above ground. You can really see the mix of old and new buildings. It even snowed for a few minutes while I was at the observation deck. I decided to get one of those medallion souvenirs with name and date stamp.

The medallion cost 500 yen, the key chain was 200 yen, and the name and date stamp was 30 yen. A little expensive for a key chain, but I figured it’s a good remembrance of my time there.

Kyoto Tower medallion

After that, I had lunch at Kyoto Tower Sando, which is a food hall at the tower basement (B1F). There were so many food choices, both Japanese and international cuisines. I tried the pork cutlet from Katsukura which I forgot to take a photo of (I was hungry… sorry).

My next stop was at Gion Aya Maiko Experience. I decided to take the bus as it was the fastest option. However, it was the wrong move and added reasons why I don’t like taking the bus. I took the Bus 206 from Kyoto Ekimae stop. It was supposed to head north towards Higashiyama Yasui. However, it took the opposite route and I had no choice but to get off the next stop. My appointment at Aya was at 1pm and it was nearly 12:30 pm so I just took a taxi and barely met my appointment time.

Gion Aya was a quaint little shop that provided Maiko or Geisha make-over experience. For a small fee, you can transform into the doll-like ladies of old Japan complete with hairstyle, make-up and formal kimono. I’ll post a complete transformation experience in the next few days. 🙂

Maiko experience

The Maiko experience took at least a couple of hours from start to finish. Afterward, I had a little inner debate as to where I should go before my next cultural experience at 6pm. I saw a little shrine near Gion Aya, so I took some pictures while taking shelter from the rain.

Yasaka Shrine

Since it was barely 4pm, I decided to go back to Book and Bed Kyoto to check-in and rest my feet. The hotel didn’t accept cash, so I had to pay using either credit card or IC. The 6000 yen fee covered the booking and tax. Sleepwear, towels, toothbrush and bathroom products were extra charge. Good thing I brought my own so I was able to save some money.

Book and Bed Kyoto

The actual sleeping area was just a small capsule around 1x1x2 meters hidden inside the bookshelves. Curtains were for privacy. There was a long couch around the whole area where you can rest, eat, and read books.

I rested and read a book (of course) for at least an hour and a half. When my feet were ready for another walk, I went to Tea Ceremony En where I scheduled a group demonstration of a traditional tea ceremony.

Wagashi and Matcha

It was an hour of lecture and demonstration. Since it was a group demo, I was joined by a family from Italy, a couple from Korea and a group of friends from Canada. I was the only solo traveler from the Philippines and I had the luck to become the demo’s “principal guest” – which meant I got to taste the green tea made by the master. Yum!

After the lecture and demo, they gave us wagashi (Japanese sweets) and taught us how to mix and drink our own matcha. It’s a bit more complicated than I thought, so I’ll try to explain the whole process in a different post soon.

After drinking lots of tea, it’s time to find dinner. I found a small shop near my hotel that offered Kyoto-style okonomiyaki.

Kyoto-style Okonomiyaki

It was good. Although it had far too many green onions for my taste. It was cheap, though and the atmosphere of the shop was very Japanese. I had to wash away the onion taste and what better way to do that than having matcha dessert?

Shiratama Parfait

After dinner and dessert, I finally headed back to the hotel to continue reading the book and go to sleep. I thought the small sleeping quarter would be claustrophobic, but it was actually very cozy. I want to go to another one of their branch in Tokyo just to stay in and read books all day. 😀

End of 2nd day solo adventure. Third and last day will be in Nara. Talk again soon! 🙂