Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Japan, Here We Come!

Just a few more days and we'll be in Japan. It's really happening! After all these years of wishing and hoping, I'll finally set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun! :-D

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go... Kumamon Helly Kitty is, too!

It's going to be such an adventure. First, it'll be my first time travelling out of the country. I'm so excited to experience autumn. I live in the Philippines where there are only two seasons: summer and the rainy season. I often complain that it's too hot, even during the rainy season. I'm looking forward to the cold weather and wearing a trench coat. Haha!

Second, I've never been on a train before. We don't have them where I live. We're going to attempt to navigate Osaka's complex train system on our own with the aid of Google Maps and hopefully some helpful Japanese people along the way. Good luck to us.

Third, we're going to explore Osaka and Kyoto by bicycle on a couple of days. I hope the drivers in Japan are friendly to cyclists. But I'll most likely stick to the sidewalks when possible since I'm not that confident in my biking skills. And I hope my knees can handle it. I've been undergoing physical therapy for patella alta these past few weeks. Thankfully I can now climb up and down stairs with just minimal discomfort. It used to be torture.

Fourth, I'm about to put my Japanese language skills to the test. Not that there's much to test since I only know very basic Japanese. I  haven't even finished Pimsleurs's Japanese Level 3 yet. I'm on lesson 13. Still, it will be fun trying to converse in Japanese. "Trying" is the key word here. Hehe... Tanoshimi desu. :-p

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Should we go to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Tennoji Zoo?

I'm an animal lover. I love all animals except for ants, cockroaches and spiders... but I digress.

I've read a lot of different reviews, and I'm torn whether or not we should visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Tennoji Zoo in Osaka.

Whale shark at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (Photo from Odigo)

First, let's talk about Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Some say the aquarium is really nice and that you shouldn't miss it when you're in Osaka; others say it's a heartbreak for animal lovers. They pity the whale shark because it's put in a tank that's too small for it and with no vegetation. They say the penguins are stressed because people take pictures with the flash on even when flash photography is prohibited. They also say that the manta rays in the petting zoo have nowhere to hide when they want to get away from hands that poke at them.

Elephant in Tennoji Zoo (Photo from Welcome Kansai)

As for Tennoji Zoo, I've read similar stories. Some say they enjoyed going there; others say avoid it at all costs! They say the animals don't seem happy there, that they're obviously stressed and aren't in good condition, and that they're put into enclosures too small for them.

It's my principle to not patronize something that will encourage the mistreatment of animals. For example, I do not eat shark's fin siomai or soup because I do not want sharks killed just for their fins. And I will never buy dogs and cats from pet stores because I have seen (on YouTube) the abuse and mistreatment that goes on in puppy mills where the animals are bred. But I've never been to an aquarium or zoo as large as the ones in Osaka, and I'd like to go there. I'm not even sure what the reality is. Different people have different opinions.

To go or not to go? That is the question.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gyudon in Japan is like a Starbucks drink???

Did you know that you can customize your gyudon or beef rice bowl in Japan like you can customize your Starbucks drink? I didn't know until a few minutes ago, but apparently you can at Yoshinoya, one of the three largest gyudon chains in Japan (the other two being Sukiya and Matsuya). There are supposedly as many ways to customize your gyudon as there are ways to customize your Starbucks drink, but here are two that I plan to try when we eat there:

  • tsuyudaku - extra gyudon sauce
  • atama no omori (アタマの大盛) - extra helping of meat

Gyudon @ Yoshinoya, SM Seaside Cebu
Another thing I've learned is that you have to specify the size when you order since gyudon comes in a range of sizes from kid-sized to mega-sized. We'll probably just order the nami (並盛) or normal-sized one. One person suggested in his blog to order the kid-sized gyudon plus side dishes of vegetables and miso soup to create a healthier, more balanced meal. That sounds like a good idea.

Beef Misono @ Yoshinoya, SM Seaside Cebu
To order a normal-sized gyudon with extra sauce, you say, "Gyudon nami tsuyudaku de." I want to try the one with green onions and egg on top so I should say, "Negitama gyudon nami tsuyudaku de." Or maybe I'll try getting one with an extra helping of meat and extra sauce: "Negitama gyudon atama no omori tsuyudaku de." Or I can just point to the picture and say, "Kore desu!" (This one!) ;-D

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Where to buy Ohgiya Noriten and Wasabi Aji Fried Ika in Japan

I've been researching where I can get the items in my Japan shopping list, and I realized that two of the items, which I really like, are either unknown to locals or not very popular in Japan.
wasabi seaweed tempura (noriten)

This wasabi fried squid is addicting!
For example, when I googled "where to buy ohgiya noriten in osaka" and "where to buy wasabi aji fried ika in osaka", most of the results I got were from Japan import/export companies. I saw someone on Tripadvisor ask where he could buy Ohgiya Noriten in Nagoya and the Japanese person trying to answer his question didn't know what he was talking about. I also asked our Airbnb host and he has never heard of both delicious Japanese snack items either. (I even messaged him the pictures just to be sure he knew what I was talking about.)

Then I asked my sister-in-law, who had given us some as pasalubong from her trip to Japan before, where she bought them. And guess what? She bought them at the airport.

So are Ohgiya Noriten and Wasabi Aji Fried Ika just for tourists? You know, like dried mangoes and otap for us? (Tourists always buy dried mangoes and otap as pasalubong when they come to Cebu but we locals rarely eat them. Well, speaking for myself anyway.)

Actually, our Airbnb host did say that maybe wasabi flavored snack items are popular in the Kantou area (around Shizuoka or Tokyo). In the Kansai area (especially in Kyoto), it's matcha flavored everything. So it's most probably more of a regional thing. Each region has its own specialty, and a person may not be familiar with another region's specialties. I know there are many times when someone goes home to some province and brings back a local delicacy that I've never heard of. It's probably like that.

Now I know that these two yummy treats are not native to Osaka, but I'm still hoping to find them in a Family Mart, 7-Eleven, Don Quijote or Matsumoto Kiyoshi. :-)

*A "pasalubong" is what Japanese people call "omiyage." It's a customary gift you give to your boss, colleagues or family when you get back from travel. It's kind of like a souvenir. But I think this custom is only practiced in some Asian countries? So you might now know what I'm talking about.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What To Buy In Japan (My Shopping List)

One of the things I am excited about is buying things from Japan that I either can't get / don't have enough choices of in my country or are cheaper when bought in Japan. And to make sure I don't miss anything, I'm making a list and checking it twice!

Here is my list of things to buy in Japan:

  • Kose Sekkisei Moist BB cream shade 01
  • My Sekkisei BB cream is running out! I don't think it'll last until November. :-(

  • cosmetics - I wonder if they have the Maybelline Age Rewind concealer in Japan. I've heard good things about it. I've been asking salesladies at the malls if they have it, but the answer is always "it hasn't been released in the Philippines yet."
  • Wasabi Aji Fried Ika わさび味いかフライ 
  • These wasabi flavored fried squid are very addicting.

  • Ohgiya noriten のり天
  • Ohgiya noriten tastes way better than the seaweed tempura available in our supermarkets!

  • takuan - daikon pickled in a rice bran-based fermenting medium rich in bacillus subtilis
  • shibazuke - chopped cucumbers and eggplant pickled in red shiso
  • ninniku misozuke - garlic cloves pickled in miso paste
  • takuan
    shibazuke



ninniku misozuke





  • nori
  • furikake
  • green tea
  • Ippudo Instant Ramen 一風堂
  • Nissin Raoh Instant Ramen
  • Nissin Chilli Tomato Cup Noodle
  • Maruchan Instant Yakisoba
  • chopsticks and chopstick rests
  • Who can resist the cuteness of cats?!

  • Japan keychain - to replace my more-than-ten-year-old favorite Beautiful Malaysia keychain that I've had to glue together to keep the inner part from falling off
I love this keychain. It's just the right size. I like the design and metal quality; the edges are so smooth. It looks exactly the same from the other side. The inner circle spins around.

  • bag with a cat design - just because I like cats
    Look how cute these cat rucksacks are! Can't decide if I want the グレー (gurei or gray), ブラック (burakku or black), or アイボリー (aiborii or ivory).

  • Osaka and Kyoto refrigerator magnets - to start my refrigerator magnet collection of the places I've been to in Japan :-D