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Showing posts from April, 2016

Under the sea...

"Down here all the fish is happy
As off through the waves they roll The fish on the land ain't happy They sad 'cause they in their bowl But fish in the bowl is lucky They in for a worser fate One day when the boss get hungry Guess who's gon' be on the plate."


I can't help but think of Sebastian the Lobster from The Little Mermaid when I went into the water at Dive and Trek, a marine sanctuary in Bauan, Batangas. I mean, there were a lot of fish! It's the first time I've snorkeled and seen the diversity of fish in the area! It's also a popular snorkeling spot so my family and I were not exactly alone in the area. The previous times I was there, I was wakeboarding... complete with flying into the air, thanks to a rock I wasn't able to avoid (one time).

Anyway, here's a video of our snorkeling trip. It's Daddy's first time to snorkel; Mommy's first time to be in saltwater with us; Marco's first time to swim among the fish; and An…

lost in translation and the elephant was in the room

While walking near the Shinjuku Station, I noticed this poster. It attracted my attention because (i) I don't speak Japanese or read Japanese script so I thought that this would be a good way to find out what the message was; (ii) there was an elephant in the picture.
I have a few guesses at what it means. No offense meant to the Japanese...
(1) Elephants are not allowed. (2) Elephants are not allowed to throw tissue paper rolls. (3) Elephants are not allowed to use their trunks to blow tissue paper rolls into the air. (4) Elephants are not allowed to go near lit cigarette butts.
A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Apr 3, 2016 at 8:14pm PDT

Whatever the poster meant, it made me smile after a day of walking in the countryside, visiting flowers, peach trees, cherry trees...

Dōtonbori

Bright lights, big city. I thought Tokyo was one bright metropolis already... Until I saw Osaka's Dōtonbori district. The place was also bright! There were huge billboards everywhere! Even with the rain, it was such a happy place to visit. It somehow reminded me of Hong Kong, only more eclectic. 
A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Apr 4, 2016 at 12:22am PDT

Some of the more interesting sights were the eccentric advertisements, like this one, the gigantic Kani Dōraku crab. It's known to be a moving crab robot but I didn't see it. Without understanding the Japanese text, I knew instantly that this is a restaurant that serves crab. No-go for Rochie here.

This one's the Meiji billboard. The guy in the billboard is known as Karl Ojisan. If there's one regret I have during this trip, it is this: I didn't hoard Meiji chocolate bars because I couldn't risk going over the baggage weight limit.


I found this octopus near the giant crab. I'm not sur…

Entering the wizarding world of Harry Potter

In JK Rowling's novels, one can only enter into the wizarding world if you (as a wizard or a witch) know where to go. You can go via Floo Network, by catching the train from Platform 9-3/4, by flying (using brooms or the magical Ford Anglia), by Apparition, or by using port keys. If you're a Muggle, forget it; there are too many charms, spells, and secrets around the wizarding world that it can't be seen or accessed through Muggle eyes.
... or so we thought.
Apparently, JK Rowling has hoodwinked everyone because this wizarding world featured mostly in her books is not in Great Britain at all. It's in Japan. Yes, in JAPAN!!
Learning about this, fellow Harry Potter fans, Krishna and I flew all the way from Tokyo to Osaka after we've had our fill of sakura to check the wizarding world out for ourselves. We quickly found ourselves in wintry Hogsmeade and we bought ourselves some butterbeer to warm us up. That was quite remarkable because there were a lot of Muggles wi…

Hanami: Flower viewing

What's the big deal with flowers blossoming from trees? I always see those in the Philippines. Yes, the caballero's bright orange and yellow flowers are pretty, the kalachuchi is perennially blooming, and there are a lot of flowers wherever I go in Laguna. I surely have taken these flowers for granted until I arrived in Japan...

You see, I arrived as winter closed and as spring began. The skies were eternally gloomy and the weather was biting cold. It wasn't like the sunny winter I had in South Korea at all! The sad atmosphere made me realise that seeing a flower bloom in such conditions is really a happy occasion. No wonder people really take time to eat under the trees, dining under the full glory of cherry and peach blossoms. Ueno Park (Central Tokyo) was jam-packed with people partying under the pink blooms!



Honestly, the nighttime view of Japan's gardens during sakura (cherry blossom) season doesn't give the flowers' beauty justice. I was blown away when …

happy birthday, Lola Bats!!

Lola Bats (that's how we, her grandkids call her but her real name is Juana or Juanita... I forget), my paternal (and lone surviving) grandmother, turns 100 on April 13th. Naturally, relatives flew in from different parts of the world to celebrate this milestone with her. But since the 13th is a weekday this year, we opted to throw Lola her birthday bash on April 9th, a Saturday. The party was so much fun. Imagine fitting more than eighty relatives and friends in Lola's house. It was a riot! I am very happy that Lola was strong enough to enjoy her party because other centenarians could barely stand up on their own... but Lola looks younger than her age. She just has a deaf ear and a blind eye, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, and diabetes... otherwise, she's as healthy as a horse. I personally cannot believe that she's 100 years old. 
Anyway, since I've got an action camera with a monopod attached to it, I took some video shots from the party and the aft…

ordering food, carinderia style in Japan

Krishna and I embarked on a Japanese hanami adventure during this year's sakura season. And we hit a few hilarious road blocks. Here's one of them...
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One the morning in Osaka, Krishna and I opted to eat at Matsuya Shinsaibashi, a gyudon restaurant near the famous shopping mall. We didn't know then that the staff only communicated in Japanese... but we were kind of expecting this. What surprised us was the way we had to order food. 
As you enter the restaurant, it is similar to a carinderia with people eating there facing the small kitchen. But unlike the Filipino concept, we couldn't point to the food to order it. We had to go to this touch screen computer, choose what we wanted to eat (by pressing the buttons), and then pay either with cash or with the Suica card. The papers coming out of the machine were then given to the chef so that he could start cooking our meals. It was a fresh concept for me because it was quite efficient albeit cold. I prefer restaurants w…

Les Misérables (the live version)

"Watch 'em run amuck, catch them as they fall, never know your luck when there's a free-for-all..." (Madame and Monsieur Thernardier)
Finally, I had the opportunity to watch, live and in theatre, one of the musicals that added brilliance to Lea Salonga's already bright international star. Nelzo has seen Les Misérables in London; when the Australian production landed in the Philippines, Rizza, Man, Annette, and I grabbed the first chance our schedules aligned to watch Les Misérables at The Theatre in Solaire Resort and Casino. We were able to get tickets for the gala show on a weekday... and just our luck, Rachelle Ann Go, the Filipina actress who played Fantine in the 30th anniversary London staging of the musicale, was Fantine in the Manila show! We were so excited!!
As our fellow audiences were filing into the theatre, we learned quite rapidly that watching the live version means dealing with lots of distractions... also known as celebrities watching the show b…

Finding Hachikō

Hachikō is world-renowned for his loyalty to his master, who died while at work. Many years ago, I learned about this special dog and became intrigued by Akitas... to the extent of considering getting one. I also learned back then that Hachikō has his own monument in Japan and that he was there when it was mounted at the Shibuya Station. While in Tokyo, therefore, I wanted to see this very famous statue of the extremely loyal dog.

When I got to Shibuya Station via train before the rush-hour commuters arrived, I was surprised that one of the station's exits was named after him: Hachikō-gushi. Hachikō truly was (still is) a celebrity for the Japanese. However, I was in a big hurry so I wasn't able to stop and take a photo with this famous dog. Instead, I thought that it would be best if I came back in the afternoon and enter the Shibuya Station via the same exit so I can pass by the statue.


It turned out to be a bad idea and a missed opportunity. Hours later, at around 4pm, I wa…

deciphering Tokyo's railway system

Krishna and I embarked on a Japanese hanami adventure during this year's sakura season. And we hit a few hilarious road blocks. Here's one of them...
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On the first night we arrived in Tokyo, we dropped our bags at our hotel in Kisarazu and then went to the train station to catch a two-hour train ride to Shinjuku. We thought that it would be a good idea to see where we were supposed to meet the tour group for the next day's tour. 

At the airport, there were many people who could tell us the direction to the trains (because it was crowded) but in Kisarazu, we didn't find anyone; we were pretty much on our own. And so when we needed to know what trains to take, we had to rely on Google Maps (thank you, Google Maps!!) and on the timetable posted at the station. It looked something like this (although I took the photo at the Mitsukoshimae station, a stop along the Ginza line).

With time pressure on us, it was difficult... this must be what it feels like to be in the Ama…