Posted in JapanLife, Personal, Social Events

My Childhood Holidays

It’s the holidays season! My friends and I (irl and online) are becoming a little nostalgic, and a bit pensive amidst the festivities around.

I’ve seen posts on social medias with a common theme:

Why do Christmas gets sadder as we get older?

(We are from a Catholic country, so we’re mostly Catholics who seriously celebrates Christmas)

I actually felt that. As I grow older and get busier with trying to have a stable life, Christmas (or any holiday for that matter) had become less and less a joyful celebration. Especially now that I am working in a non-Catholic country, Christmas is just a regular day at work.

I still remember when I was very young, Christmas and New Year were the most exciting events of the year. As is common in our country, we’d start decorating when the calendar hits the BER months (September~). Around November (after the All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day), we’d start building the big tree in our living room. It’s also the time us kids would start receiving greetings or gifts from relatives and godparents – which we couldn’t open til Christmas Eve.

On Dec. 24th, we’d spend the whole day cleaning the house, preparing food and just relaxing at home. At midnight, the whole family would gather at our small dining table and enjoy the food my mother made all day. After that, we would all open the gifts we received and have fun watching fireworks from the nearby school (which has yearly fireworks).

Sometimes, my parents’ friends would come visit and have a little party with us. We’d sing karaoke, have some dance off, or the children could safely go around the neighborhood to sing carols. I usually got my new year’s money from those jam sessions. LOL.

Those were the days….

When my sister and I was in college, we still stayed at home and celebrated Christmas and New Year with our parents. Except that our parents had a new set of friends they wanted to hang out with after the countdown. Sometimes, we’d just buy some take-out food from stores, so we wouldn’t have to cook all day. And of course, the older we get, the less gifts we received. Instead, it was me and my sister who started giving gifts to our young nieces and nephews (and sometimes even to their parents).

However, we’ve barely celebrated Christmas together for the last 5 years or so. My sister lived in Cebu for a couple years and just moved back to Manila a few years ago. A year after she moved back, I was transferred to Japan for work. I tried going home for the holidays, but airfares are just too expensive!

Anyways, the holidays had lost its magic on me a long time ago. When I started working, Christmas season became a dreaded holiday at work. We had to finish hundreds of projects before the 2-day vacation (we get back to work on 26th) and more projects before the New Year’s break. As part of my job, I was also involved in organizing the company party, and fixing the work schedule.

Those were really exhausting and stressful days.

Nowadays, it’s not really stressful, but just a bit lonely. I live alone, and the few friends I made had their own work to do, and family to spend time with during the holidays. I don’t wait for midnight anymore, since I had to sleep early for work. I haven’t even decorated my house for the past 2 years.

Christmas this year, I had a drink with a friend at a cheap izakaya (Japanese bar and restaurant), so I wasn’t quite lonely. I also had dinner with some new friends on Christmas Day. But I might be celebrating New Year’s Eve alone at home (I didn’t plan any out-of-town vacation due to budget shortage).

I’m just realizing now, Christmas doesn’t get sadder as we grow older. It’s just most of the holiday magic was from the innocence of our childhood. We didn’t have such complicated lives before, and the only problem we had was choosing which gift to open first. We had simple happiness when we were kids, and money was never an issue.

Christmas doesn’t change, nor will it ever change. It’s me who changed. We changed. We are no longer the wide-eyed children who believed a jolly old man could bring gifts all over the world in a single night. Some of us even questioned if there was really a child born in a manger thousands of years ago. (I still am having some serious doubts about religion – but that’s another topic altogether.)

Maybe someday, we’d reclaim some of the holiday magic we used to have. When we have kids of our own; small children who will be as excited as we were before. If we’d look at the world with a newborn’s eyes, life might be more magical and special. Maybe, we’d find something to make us believe again. Something that would restore our faith and give more meaning to holidays.

For now, I’m just looking forward to rest from work instead of having an extravagant celebration. A quiet night at home while talking to my sister is all I need.

For those who are lucky enough to still have the sparkle and dazzle of the holidays: cheers to that! 😊🎉✨

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Writing

Everything I Keep Inside

You can smile and laugh

But still be unhappy

Everything you’d ever want

Right in the palm of your hands

And still feel lacking

You can have friends around

Yet the loneliness will linger

Like a black hole in your soul

Consuming every joy

You are whole and healthy

But inside everything is broken

The unexplained pain

Becoming so unbearable

That you just go numb

Empty

Cold

Still, you go on living

Trying to imitate what is normal

But within, there is a gaping hole

That no amount of time

Can seem to heal and patch up.

You can be the most positive person

On the outside

But the storms are always rolling

Just beneath the surface of your skin

And surrounding yourself with light

Doesn’t seem to chase the shadows away

You can be beloved, protected

But still be scared to show the truth

Of what is inside your heart

Always afraid that you are a burden

To everyone in your life

You can be on top of the world

And still feel that you’ve hit rock bottom

Lost and in the dark

The walls closing in at your every step

You can be a functional human being

Moving, breathing, working every day

Yet deep inside, you’re nothing

But pain and sadness and fear

You can smile and laugh all the time

Yet always crying inside your heart.

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Writing

I am Not Strong

I am not strong
Although I try to be
Still, I fall and break
I bleed inside and out

I am not strong
Even if I look like it
There are cracks in the facade
If you look hard enough

I am not strong
Every day, I try hard to fight
But often, I just want to give in
I am tired, always so tired

I am not strong
I wish I could be
But the walls are crumbling
And I am crushed within

Posted in JapanLife, Personal, Travel

Summer 2019: Kamakura! Day 2

****I apologize for the very late update. Life got in the way, and I was shoved in a dark corner. I’m sort of ok now, so part 2 is finally here.****

For my 2nd day at Kamakura, I woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. I originally wanted to rent a bike, but as I do bring clouds wherever I go (according to my friend), it was a rainy morning and not an ideal weather for a bike ride.

Luckily, Kotoku-In Temple was very near and can be accessed by walking. Google maps said it was a 15-minute walk from the hotel, but I got lost for a few minutes, so it took me twice as much to reach the temple grounds. XD

Kotoku-In is famous for the Giant Buddha sitting on an open area. Entrance to the grounds area is¥200 and you can also enter the Buddha for only ¥20. Of course, for ¥300, I got another temple stamp to add for my collection.

After a couple of hours of waiting for the temple stamp and taking photos, I head out to my next destination: Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine.

There was no entrance fee for this shrine, but getting there was a bit of a trek. The grounds are located on the mountains, and you’d have to do a little hike to find the entrance.

The grounds was small by comparison to the other shrines I’ve been to, but it felt cozy and intimate. Immediately by the entrance, you can see the monks signing the shrine stamps (which I also got).

Zeniarai’s famous landmark was the miraculous spring flowing inside a cave shrine. It was said that if you wash your money in this spring, it will blessed and multiply. Of course, I had to give it a try!

After exploring the grounds a bit, I bought a bottle of ラムネ at one of the food stalls inside the shrine. I also found a small trail leading to a cafe (name), but it seems it was closed when I got there. Maybe I will try to go there next time.

As it was still early, I decided to go out for lunch before heading to the next shrine on my list. Just 20 minutes away from Zeniarai, I found Akari Dining with its humongous karaage.

After lunch, I walked a few minutes more to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. The thing that amazed me most about this shrine was its impressive torii gate which was located a few blocks away from the main grounds.

It took a few minutes of leisurely walk from the giant torii to the main shrine grounds. Past the gate, there were three bridges: an arched one on the center and flat bridges on both sides. The arched bridge was closed off when I got there, not sure if it was just a temporary closure, so everyone used the flat bridges on either sides.

Inside the grounds, almost everything was color red. Even the ema tablets were designed as small red torii. The main shrine was accessible by climbing a long set of stairs.

There were also small pathways covered by multiple torii leading to smaller shrines. A pair of Japanese girls wearing traditional summer kimono even asked me to take their photo beneath the torii. It was a magical moment for me because I was able to understand their Nihongo, and I was able to reply with the same language. 🙂

After exploring the grounds, getting a shrine stamp, and taking photos of the koi at the ponds, I was a bit tired. There was a small canteen near the entrance where I bought souvenirs (お土産) for the office, and a refreshing melon ice (メロンかき氷) for me.

This was supposedly the end of my day 2, but I still had time to spare and Houkai-ji Temple was less than 10 minutes away.

There was a fee of ¥200 to enter the forest-like grounds. There weren’t a lot of people there and it felt very serene and calm. The main hall was open for visitors for praying and temple stamps. It was only the second time I got to see the inside of a temple’s hall, and it was quite surreal.

On my way back to the hotel, I took the Enoden Line from Kamakura Station to Yuigahama Station. It was still early, so I hang out at the beach and even tried to swim (it was hard- the waves were still too high). After sunset, I went back to the hotel to change and went out again for dinner. I was craving for ramen, and I was really glad when I found a small Chinese restaurant where I got these:

And with that, my vacation at Kamakura ended. 🙂

I am now looking forward to my next vacation and adventure. Talk to you soon! 😀

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Relationships, Writing

Unrequited Love Letter

Dearest,

The circumstances which made our paths crossed,

are also the reasons why I cannot say this out loud.

I love you.

I never thought I would love again, but I did.

With you.

And it hurts me to know that you might never know.

So, I put the words into action,

hoping that the song I cannot sing for you

may be felt instead as a blanket of comfort.

In your moments of sadness and happiness

I am here, always here.

Just watching over you as you journey through life.

The friendly face you seek among the sea of strangers.

My love,

I am happy that I met you.

My heart is joyful that you are a part of my life.

And a beautiful story of friendship began.

But every story must end some time

and ours might be ending soon.

You have the soul of a gypsy,

and you are meant to fly away.

I cannot and will not ever hold you back.

Your happiness will always be mine.

Wherever you might go,

even if time and distance keep us apart,

I hope you will always remember me.

And know that my heart is yours.

My beloved,

The circumstances which made our paths crossed,

are also now the reasons why you and I must part.

And I must carry the burden of this unrequited love.

So that you can soar freely and without worry.

Wherever your heart will lead, there you should go.

And I will be here, patiently waiting

for you, and only you.

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Writing

Holding On

Sometimes,

Holding on hurts more

Than letting go

Like a rope that burns

As you hopelessly cling

On the side of the mountain

You cannot ever reach

Like an anchor that drags you

Deeper into the cold, dark sea

Into the void and unknown

So, let go

Detach yourself

Learn not to care

You might be surprised

That you have wings on your own

You will fly

You will soar

And everything that hurt you

Will be nothing but a speck of dust

Miles beneath your feet

Posted in Personal, Poetry, Writing

Done

I am done

I’m done trying to be part

Of a world that doesn’t want me

I am tired of fighting

Of pushing the walls that wouldn’t budge

Trying to make enough space

For me to grow and flourish

I am done

I am so freaking done

Of trying to fit in with people

Who neither understand nor accept

The way I think and feel

I’m exhausted from swimming against the currents

And I just want to let the waves carry me away

Wherever it will lead, I don’t care

I don’t want to fight anymore

And I don’t want to waste time and effort

Knowing I will only lose in the end

So, I am done

I am finally f—ing done

I will stop caring

I will stop hoping

I will stop wishing

I will just be me, with all my wounds and scars

Going where the wind blows

Following no road or path

No destination in mind

Whatever happens, happens

I don’t give a damn.

Posted in JapanLife, Personal, Travel

Summer 2019: Kamakura! Day 1

***Late post from August 2019***

It’s summer! Or at least the calendar says it’s summer. XD

Due to several typhoons around Japan sea, we are experiencing rainy weather for several months now. Luckily, there was a break last week – both with work and the storms – and I got to visit one more place on my bucket list.

For my Kamakura adventure, I planned to explore the beach and the surrounding areas for two and a half days. I booked a bed at WeBase Hostel near Yuigahama Beach so that I can have easy access to the sea. Below is the itinerary I prepared for this trip:

Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is merely a 2-hour travel from where I live. If you are within Central Tokyo, you can cut that travel time in half. It is located at the south-most part of Kanagawa and is famous for it’s long line of beaches and the Giant Buddha.

Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

From Toyoda to Kamakura, I took the following train route:

  • JR Chuo Line from Toyoda to Hachioji
  • Yokohama Line from Hachioji to Yokohama
  • Yokosuka Line from Yokohama to Kamakura
  • Enoshima Dentetsu Line from Kamakura to Yuigahama

And I just reversed the route on my way home.

All in all, I spent a little over ¥2600 for the roundtrip train fare – which was less than my original budget. Yay!

From Yuigahama Station, WeBase Hostel was a mere 3-minute walk under the burning summer sun. Without checking my map, I followed the flow of tourists and soon found the hotel a few steps away from the main road and the beach.

The staff were very friendly and spoke English. Since the actual check-in time is 4 PM, I left my bag at the front desk and went on the main objective of the day: Hase-dera Temple.

Hase-dera Temple was just 15 minutes away from the hotel. I decided to walk so that I could find a restaurant for lunch before exploring the temple. Near the Enoden line, I found a shop that offers Kamakura’s famous “shirasu” or whitebait fish – which my office-mates suggested for me to try at least once.

So, I ordered a bowl of udon (my favorite) with tempura and shirasu toppings:

It was good, but honestly, it wasn’t my cup of tea – so to speak. But at least, I gave it a try.

Hase-dera or Hase-kannon is a Buddhist temple and is famous for housing of the largest wooden statue of Kannon in Japan .

The temple itself was a sprawling landmark with multiple stairs which would lead you to different areas and offer different views. For only ¥400 as entrance fee, you can explore this temple as long as you want.

I planned to try making a Shakyo as I had seen on the website. But due to time constraint (I was one and a half hours behind my schedule), I wasn’t able to do so.

I did explore the small museum where, of course, photography is not allowed.

I went back to the hotel just after the temple’s closing. I planned to swim a bit at the beach, but the waves were kind of high and I got scared. LOL.

So, I just stayed at the beach and waited for the sunset. Fun fact: the sun doesn’t set on the sea’s horizon line at Kamakura. It sets on the opposite side among the houses and buildings.

After having my fill of the salty air, I went back to the hotel to clean up and have dinner at the restaurant. Unfortunately, I’m very picky and they have limited items on the menu. I decided to try one of the restobars at the beach line. It was fun to have a simple dinner of grilled chicken and drink lemon sour while listening at the sound of water.

I wanted to hangout more at the beach, so I tried a different bar, but all establishments didn’t accept new customers after 8:30 PM. In the end, I had one more drink at a bar near the hotel, and called it a night.

Will share more of my adventures at the next post. 🙂

Posted in ArtWorks, JapanLife, Personal, Travel

JapanLife: Exploring Little Edo

(This is a very late post about my adventure for my 29th birthday last February. )

On my 29th birthday, I have decided to explore Saitama’s famous Little Edo in Kawagoe City. It was a little over an hour of commute from Toyoda Station to Honkawagoe Station, with at least three transfers.

Little Edo (小江戸) was actually just a long stretch of road in Kawagoe known for it’s historical bell tower (時の鐘) and the shops with Edo Period architecture and design.

For my first stop, I went to the Kawagoe Kita-In Temple, a 10-minute walk from Honkawagoe Station.

Of course, I couldn’t resist getting a temple stamp. So, while I was waiting for the stamp, I decided to explore the Edo Palace buildings – which were the remaining halls moved from the original palace many years ago.

Kita-In Temple is also the home of the 500 Buddhist Statues (五百羅漢). This small area contains 540 statues of the disciples of Buddha, all with differently unique expressions and poses.

To access the statue courtyard, you will first need to buy a ticket at the temple office. For about ¥1000, you can explore the Edo Palace halls and see the statues of the disciples of Buddha.

My next stop was the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.

This shrine was especially famous to couples. When I went there, there was a long line of couples waiting to pray or give thanks. Since I don’t have a partner, I decided to skip the worship at this place and instead explore the sakura-lined riverbank just outside.

It was winter when I visited, so the trees were still bare. But I can just imagine what it would look like in the spring: so pink! I thought about coming back during the blossom season, unfortunately I had to go to Manila and wasn’t able to return in time. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

When I finally went to Koedo, it felt like I went back in time. The roads were cobbled stones, and the shops all had that old-world atmosphere. Even the Starbucks used wood as main material for their shop!

Of course, I had to step inside for coffee and cake (it’s my birthday!) The interior was a mix of old and new. But the best part was the Japanese garden at the back.

Even though it was quite a windy day, I chose to quietly celebrate my birthday at the Starbucks garden. LOL. It was a peaceful and relaxing celebration.

After my coffee break, I went outside to take some photos of the famous bell tower. I also saw a street artist selling some of his drawings. I decided to buy one as a gift for my self.

The artist, Matsuda-san, used a single 5.0 technical pen to draw all his art. Despite using only one type of pen, his pieces have depth and feeling, and were really wonderful to see. I was able to practice my Japanese speaking skills, too!

I bought the cheapest one he had for ¥1000, but when I told him that it was my birthday treat, he decided to give me one of the better drawings for the same price. The kindness of random people really made me smile. 🙂

After that, I walked around Koedo following the main road to Roman Street. On the way, I saw the Kawagoe Festival Museum which showcased the different materials used during the annual festival (October).

I spent some time inside the museum and went back on the road around 5pm. Little did I know that Koedo shops closes early. I planned to eat dinner in one of the restaurants around Roman Street, but everything was already closed by the time I got there.

I did see a shrine with this colorful facade:

And with that, my Koedo adventure came to an end. Here are some of the random stuff I saw while walking along the cobbled streets:

I plan to come back in October to watch the festival. I hope my work schedule would allow it. XD

Til next time!

Posted in Poetry, Relationships, Writing

Stardust

We are made of stars

That’s what I choose to believe

Our hearts were once cores

Of heaven’s glittering diamonds

Shining brightly in the sky

There is energy and light

Within our spirits

Connecting us despite the great distance

We are made of fallen stars

But we have risen again

And though the path ahead

Seems dark and terrifying

The fire inside us will be our guide

So that we may find our home

We are made of stardust

And a part of me is yours

As you are a part of mine

It may take us another lifetime

Or billions of light years

But we will see each other again

We are connected by the invisible thread

Unraveling in the vast universe

The journey to each other may be long

But we will get there, someday

Keep your faith, my beloved star

You will find home; you will find me soon.