On an ordinary day almost a year ago, an event changed my perspective about a lot of things in life.
breakfast of egg benedict before boarding the plane
Took a morning flight to Tokyo on the 10th Mar 2011, to attend the Japan Annual Beauty exhibition to be held in Makhuhari (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makuhari_Messe) ( a Japanese convention center area outside Tokyo, located in the Mihama-ku ward of Chiba City, in the northwest corner of Chiba prefecture, about 45mins by bus from Narita Airport).
my first meal upon arriving at the hotel.. my favourite Japanese Curry rice with hamburger steak
On the morning of 11th mar 2011, many visitors from all over the world had turned up at the 3-day Beauty Fare.
many visitors registering themselves for their entry passes to the fare
The surprise came after we broke for lunch. I felt the first tremor at 2.45pm in the afternoon. I thought I was having giddy spells as I experienced the first quake. Everything came as a shock as ceiling lights started swaying vigorously. It was so violent that all the customers in the Japanese Restaurant ran out of the of the shop. I thought the shaking was caused by some piling construction work nearby. The subsequent shock came within 5-10 mins. Out on the corridor of the restaurant, I saw many people squatting down. A father with his family told me that I could be experiencing an earthquake.
The next moment, I was hit by another wave of shaking. The quake was so strong that I could hear gas cyclinders from the restaurant’s kitchen dropping and rolling on the floor. I was all too stunned to react. I could only wait and see, hoping that this was just a temporary quake that was often felt.
Fortunately for me, I attended the exhibition with some friends from Singapore. I was less frightened because of their presence. One of my friend (Takashi) suggested that we should get out of the building, just in case the building collapsed due to the severe shake. The group of us got to the ground floor, away from glass windows (in case they shatter). I stood at the roadside, waiting to see what to do next. An old Japanese man told our group that certain parts of Japan had experienced quite severe quakes the day before. He told our group that more serious ones would be expected to hit in certain parts of Japan. We watched in fear as we saw the tall building (about 20 storeys) opposite us swaying left and right. And the next moment, we were being hit by yet another violent shake.
Rows of bicycles were found laying on the floor as there were shock after shock of that earthquake. Our group stayed at the same location for a good 30mins or so. Making sure we were out of any possible danger. I received a text message from my nephew in London that Fukushima had been hit by a serious earthquake. The telco service in Japan seemed to have come to a stand still. All the people around us, including strangers were all taking out their mobiles to call their family and loves ones. But the line no longer worked. My nephew texted me to tell me to be safe.
It then dawn on me that things had turned out to be more serious than anyone had expected. The group decided to return to our hotel (New Otani), which was walking distance from the exhibition hall, in the hope to find out what had happened.
The Hotel lobby was crowded when we got back. Filled with foreigners and Japanese, all waiting for news and instructions on what to do next. A germany guy (Cabin crew from a German airline), dressed in his bathrobe was standing in the lobby. Quite an unusual sight. He related to us that he got injured as his room was on the 22nd floor. The quake was so severe that he was being thrown around in his room. Even the TV had fallen off the TV rack. We watched in fear as the TV showed areas affected by the earthquake that had happened in Fukushima. Hotel Staff all seemed pretty cool and composed but hardly any instruction was given as to what we could do, other than telling all hotel guests ”there was an emergency, pls remain calm”.
Takashi suggested that the group of us, leave the Hotel and move to an empty big football field about 5-10mins away. As we walked to the entrance of the hotel, there was an announcement that Tsumani will be expected in about 20mins. The initial information was that a 2m high tsunami will be hitting the coast. We were all told to get to higher floors. Little did we expect that the next piece of news was more frightening. The coming Tsunami was going to be 10m high instead. No one will be able to understand our fears as we waited : as Hotel New Otani was only about 1-2 football field away from the sea. The fear of waiting for things to happen, the fear of not being able to see you family and loves ones again suddenly hit you. I had butterfly in my stomach then but had to remain calm so as not to frighten the rest in the group. Many of the hotel guests, together with the group of us headed to the 4th floor of the Hotel, thinking that we will be on dry grounds from the 10m tsunami.
The rest of the afternoon passed by slowly, with my heart skipping a beat every time the aftershock hit us. The Hotel staff were all too busy with their own activities. There was no water, no food provided. We were all told that the lift has been stopped and we were not allowed to return to our rooms for fear of accidents in the lift if another severe earthquake was to hit.
I made 50 calls home. After trying for 3 hrs, i finally managed to reach my family to tell them I was safe. Most of us felt cold (temperature was about 10 degree celsius) and hungry. I was lucky to have my friends around when the disaster happened as I was originally alone, to checked-in at the hotel opposite.
The group of us decided to head out to buy food and drinks, for fear that we would be hungry later in the night in the cold weather. It was almost 7pm and the hotel had not given any water.
cracked tiles and burst pipes were seen everywhere
check out the empty shelves in the convenient stores.... it was a shocking sight.
what you saw on TV was true as these pictures were taken using our iphones
All the food and drinks had been snapped up. We only managed to buy a box of ice-cream to fill our tummies. It was really pathetic. Temperature had dropped to 7-8 degree celsius that night. The group of us walked for an hour only to find a small sushi restaurant, that was opened for business. We stood for another half an hour in the cold before we were given seats in the heated restaurant.
the food that were being served was so little
I was too hungry to remember to take more pics during the meal
Takashi n June checking on earthquake updates on his iphone
we had to drink sake (japanese wine) to keep ourselves warm
had to sleep in the corridor of hotel that night as we were all not allowed in our rooms. it was really tough without any heater to keep us warm. I had to sleep in the same set of clothes I had on. We couldnt get a change. It was so so so cold....
All the hotels were all the same. All the guests were only allowed to stay in the lobby. Food and water was only given out by the hotel at 11.30pm. The group of us couldnt make our way out of Makuhari cos all modes of transport had been stopped.
the buses out of makuhari was only available the next morning. can you see the long queue of commuters trying to board?
It took the group of us quite a while to get to tokyo as the train service had stopped. Thankfully things were alot more ‘normal’ in Tokyo. Other than power supply cut off (at certain hours), Tokyolites continued their daily routines.
I managed to get my flight out for Tokyo on the 14th of mar (4 days after disaster hit), it was also the morning when the Japanese Prime Minister made an official announcement on the severity of the disaster. We were told that radiation may reach Tokyo in the next 4-5hours. My flight was at 7pm but we left for Narita Airport at 12 noon after Takashi made special arrangement for a taxi to send us to the airport (cab fare was almost S$360). Waiting for the flight time was nerve racking as well. The whole Narita airport were filled with travellers getting out of Japan. It was a shocking sight. The additional commotion of a bomb scare at the Narita Airport was my last straw. I was almost on of the verge of tears when my flight took off on schedule. All the tension that was being built up in the last few days was suddenly released. Felt so good to be headed back home.
My views after the disaster: My heart felt very heavy after my return. The trauma from the disaster left me many sleepless nights. I had many nightmares weeks after. I respect the Japanese to see how they reacted during the disaster. Everybody behaved in a calm and orderly manner, whether to queue to make paid calls, waiting for transport, queueing for food…. there were no chaos. Only considerate people trying their best to make sure there were enough for everybody, maybe it be petrol, food or drinks.
A few month later (in Oct 2011), I made a trip back to Tokyo again. Felt good to be able to make my trip to my favourite destination. Life seemed quite the same… just that tourism took a severe beating (eg hotel rates and airfares were much cheaper).
My views a year later: Since 1st mar 2012, there were many programmes on TV featuring 0311, a year after the Japan Triple disaster. I decided that I should pen down my own experience. This is my longest article I have ever written for my blog. I have always thought that I have gotten over this experience since it happened quite a while back…. Frankly, it still took me a few days to draft this. The memories of everything that happened during those few days haunted me. I “relived” the moment once again. After many sleepless nights, i finally finish this article.
Watching the programmes , i can vividly remember how i felt. It still took me some courage to face the fear i experienced then. I will forever respect the Fukushima 50 (who selflessly sacrificed themselves for the rest). My heart feels very heavy whenever i read articles about the disaster. I will never be able to imagine what will happen if the Prime Minister had not stopped the 30million Tokyo evacuation. The chaos and fear would have been unimaginable.
My heart goes to those who didnt make it thru the triple disaster and also those who survived the ordeal. I sincerely hope that Japan will recover soon. Ganbatte ne , Japan! I will sure visit again
shibuya main junction... taken in oct 2011
shibuya spanish steps.. taken in oct 2011omotesando hills... taken in oct 2011
You can read more about my recent trips with the following links:
I had a whole afternoon to do my last minute sight seeing since my flight back to Singapore was at midnight from Haneda airport.
trishaws guys dressed in traditional costume.. to bring tourists for a ride in the asakusa vicinity
headed to Asakusa Temple early in the morning..
look at the rows of shops along the way leading to the temple
there were many shops selling freshly made traditional japanese snacks here. shop was very crowded cos they were having a promotion.
shop selling traditional senbei (rice cracker)
free sampling of the snacks were readily available
look at the beautiful structure of the temple.
many tourists visit this place not for religious reasons as this is a tourist attraction
for those who would like know their luck or fortune told... this cabinet contained all the reading from the lot
stopped for a yummy soft cream that was readily available within the asakusa temple
some old streets just outside the famous asakusa temple
my favourite tempura restaurant in Tokyo. Found this shop after a feature on Japan Hours many years ago. one of the must-go places every trip
shop interior looked very traditional as it has been built many years ago
the world best Tamagoyaki...
house special.... tempura. Their batter tasted very different. The prawn were lightly coated. No oily after taste at all
at haneda airport..
Lots of souvenir shops selling traditional items
my dinner before my flight. fried pork with Oysters
tonkatsu... the serving was so generous. you can even top up cabbage and rice.
the tsukune (grilled minced pork) was tasty too
This was the 2nd trip back to Japan this year. The first was in March when the earth quake happened. Glad to be able to visit again after the disaster. Everything is back to pre-earth quake now. Wished I could stay another few days. Guess that will have to wait till my next visit. Soon i hope… probably in Jan or Apr 2012.
Time flies when you are enjoying your holidays. A late start for day 3 in tokyo. Had lunch at the Sze Chuan Resturant in our Hotel as this restaurant is owned by one of the chef who appeared on the Japanese TV programme “Iron Chef” (a cooking competition show, where people can challenge the chef on duty).
went for their set lunch. One of the dishes included : Gong bao Chicken
my yummy main course... chilli prawns
One of their specialty.. mapo doufu
the hot sour soup was one of the better ones I have tried. Taste was just right... not too spicy or too sour. Lots of fresh mushroom
one of the restaurant's specialty... Dan Dan Mian
the only disappointing dish... can you tell that was a Peking Duck serving? Think I prefer the usual style we get in Singapore. Beats that anytime.
Chestnut was blended to a paste-like texture, topped with milk. this dessert was really tasty. Sure wouldnt mind a 2nd helping.
took a pic while waiting for the bill
taken outside restaurant. can you see the blur poster of the 2 famous chef behind me?
a roadside florist near the Shibuya Station. Nice right? Like the way they have added the Halloween theme to the store .
A big Apple store in Shibuya. Shop looked crowded. Wonder if they were checking out the new Iphone 4S?
this place is called "The Spanish Steps". Located beside Parco Shibuya. Lots of small and interesting shops are located here.
this is what you see on the small lanes of the spanish steps
one of my favourite socks shop in shibuya.
Visited Shibuya 109. Too bad no photography allowed within the mall.
dinner was at a sushi restaurant i have found about 15mins walk from Shibuya 109
all the sushi menu on the wall.. guess this could be a challenge for many foreigners
cute sushi chef with "yeh" pose. chef told me that his restaurant has been around for the last 35yrs
ordered the premium assortment. the sushi was really fresh
my biggest treat for the night.... toro sashimi (tuna belly).
really enjoyed the sushi. I will definitely come back next trip.
Started my day 2 in tokyo with a simple soba for breakfast. Decided to head to Roppongi today.
my breakfast....hot soba with sliced pork
my first stop for the day was at roppongi hills
roppongi was serene and peaceful...
it felt as if i was walking thru a small park
other options to your starbucks joint.... the mobile coffee van
had lunch at the best tasting Oyako don Shop... the chicken was charcoal-grilled then cooked with eggs, unlike the usual stir-fry
tadah..... the chicken and egg was simply out of this world. Limited bowls were being served everyday
the yakitori were really good as well as they were grilled to perfection
had grilled chicken skin, chicken liver
this was the tsukune.. it had a crunchy texture cos they mix soft bones into the minced chicken
Found this nice pet shop... they provide grooming services and retail pet items. bought Mie a nice collar and some other doggie stuff
pets being groomed here.... there were quite a few shops pet-friendly shops in this mall. Me jealous!
Chanced upon this Singapore Restaurant.. Check out their singaporean dishes written on the wall
Located Azubu Jiuban as I left roppongi... it was an interesting street. Felt like an olden and out-of-place part of tokyo with a mix of new and old shops
a nice and cosy looking cafe that i saw on the side street
an old looking shop. They claimed that their seafood are all direct from Tsukiji Fish market
a few shops away from the traditional shop, was a french pastry shop. An interesting mix of shops, dont you agree?
Tully's coffee joint with an 'open air' seating area where one could sit and read with a cuppa
a low 2 storey-building with many restaurants. I was headed to "the Darjeeling'.
this was the nice coffee place... i was attracted to the yummy looking cakes
had a little 'trouble' deciding what to buy... cos everything looked yummy
on the way back to shibuya, i saw this big car or big limo or big vehicle! wonder which big celebrity was in it?
Another familar brand with a big building.... Bershka in shibuya!
if you think our H&M is big, pls take alook at this. while we only have 1 H&M big store, they have a few big stores just in tokyo!
Bought quite a few items for Mie today. It was a ‘fruitful day” for her. I enjoyed Roppongi despite only buying 2 hats. How i wish Singapore could be more pet-friendly so I can bring my little Mie out shopping… or at least in a bag
Over the years, I have made many trips to Tokyo. Friends always ask me “don’t you ever get sick and tired of going back to the same place every year?”. My reply ” No..Never” . If time permits, I will be there every season.
This is truly how i feel about Japan.
Guess you can always find a lot of information on tourist sights either from the internet or from books, so I would like to share what I like to do when I am in Tokyo.
having my supper before taking the mid-night flight
after 6+ hrs, finally arrived at Narita. This is a waiting place for people waiting for the train to get to city centre.
the interior of the narita express. this is a quick and convenient way to Shibuya (where my hotel is located)
The train ride lasted about 1hr 45mins. Scenary along the way was peaceful and nice.
my first dose of caffeine upon reaching hotel. A much needed cuppa as i touched down at 7am Japan time (which is 6am in S'pore)
my first meal in tokyo.. the club sandwich was enough to feed 2!
I stayed at the Cerulean Tower Tokyo Hotel. This is the hotel lobby where i waited for my room to be ready.
My room throughout this stay. Am surprised that the room was so big and spacious.
Look! the attached bath room is very spacious too
there was a big shower area and even bath tub
I managed to check-in to my hotel room at 12 noon, which is considered early for Japan standard. The usual check-in time for the hotels in Japan is about 3pm. Time for a hot meal…..
You have to buy your meal ticket before you order your food.
You can add any toppings on the menu to your curry rice.
Lunch was at a curry rice shop near my hotel. Curry is a usual favourite whenever I visit Japan. The hot and spicy gravy with rice makes the meal really satisfying.
Decided to go for a ‘walk’ after lunch to help digestion. My hotel was only a short 8mins walk to the famous Hachiko Square.
Can you see the number of people crossing at this traffic light?
Something that we dun have here...L'occitane has a cafe in tokyo
Love the pastry in Japan.. This is a promotion counter for egg tarts outside Seibu Departmental Store
OI City shibuya is a departmental store for the younger crowd
have you seen such big "ears"... A funny-looking car i saw on the road
Next, to my favourite Shop... called "45RPM". Staff is wrapping up my purchases with a traditional wrap.
Have you seen this bear? a very popular character created by a Japanese celebrity. This bear is really "hot" now.
this bear has been so well-received that a shop has been set up to sell their merchandise
Found this huge 5-storey Forever 21 store on my way to dinner place. So unfair right? All the known brands are having such bigs stores in Japan
Dinner was at my favourite Tsukemen Store
Look at the size of the serving... this shop charges the same price regardless of the amount of noodles served.
my noodle size is considered "small".... unbelievable right?
Tsukemen is a new way of serving ra-men created only a few yrs back. Noodles are served hot or cold with a concentrated soup dip. Very very tasty!
After a satisfying meal, I headed back to hotel. Decided to have an early night as I didnt sleep well on the route to Tokyo. Will share more on Day 2.
Hi everyone, sorry for not updating my blog. I was away in Tokyo for a week. Was too caught up with all the eating and shopping.
To me, fashion trends in Japan have always been interesting. Below is a preview of the trends for Autumn.
These are some candid shots of passerbys I have taken of people on the fashionable streets of Shibuya and Harajuku.
Checkered shirts is definitely on one of the 'must-have" list (in shibuya)
checked shirts ... even for the guys (at shibuya 109)
other checkered choices? checkered cape (at Omotesando). model is a 19yr old university student, having her pictures taken for her school project
checkered long dress (at harajuku)
stripes are still in.... (at Shibuya)
stripes... for all ages (at Shibuya, outside Parco)
animal prints are popular too.. (at Shibuya, near Parco)
animal-printed jacket (at Shibuya, famous traffic junction)
boyish style (known as "oji-style) is also seen everywhere (at Harajuku)
another passerby in ... oji-style (at Harajuku, Takeshita dori)
tribal styling .. (outside shibuya 109)
tribal styling... even for the guys (at La Foret, near Omotesando)
denims....an all-time favourite (at Omotesando)
another lady in denim skirt (opposite Harajuku Station)
denims for the guys... (at Shibuya 109)
a very stylish version of the denim jacket... i find his dressing very cool (at shibuya)
shorts are a big hit... even in the cold weather. i Like her jacket-with- shorts look (at shibuya 109)
shorts with oversize knits are very popular (outside shibuya 109)
this mama looks so good with the oversize top with her shorts (at Shibuya, near Hachiko Square)
2 japanese gals in different style with their shorts (at Asakusa)
Retro look is another 'must-have' look for this autumn (at shibuya 109)
a must have for the retro look... the polka dots. you can see them in every shop (for tops, shorts, skirts and even dresses) (at Shibuya, near OIOI)
I think there is a look for everyone. Its up to individual how she would like to ”customise” their look. Being a Kiasu Singaporean, i bought something in checkered, polka dots, laces etc etc. Sure cant go wrong this season.. LOL
I started my day 2 in taipei with a simple and ‘typical’ breakfast near my friend, Patty’s house.
the list of breakfast menu on the wall
my orders are : an omelette, soya milk and carrot cake
posing with my breakfast
Patty suggested that i take a photo during all my meals so i can remember what I have eaten through out my stay. I followed her to her working place to wait for another friend, Chloe to take me out today.
look at what she has gotten for me..... this bubble tea is too die for!!!
The pearls are boiled with brown sugar. It gives the pearl a very interesting gula melaka kind of taste. The tea tasted really milky (** something that i really like). The texture of the pearls are so “Q”.. I couldnt stop after taking the first sip. If you think KOI is nice, wait till you try this :p
chloe and i with our milk tea... this is for me to remind her to buy me the same drink again when i next visit.. ha ha
this is what i had for lunch... tasted like roti prata but the taiwanese call it '葱抓饼‘
there were some japanese customers at the store just beside us
this is how it looks like.... doesnt it look like our egg prata?
to me, this tasted better than prata cos it not oily at all.
night market at Hua Xi Street
Hua Xi night market was the first we have decided to conquer on Day 2. Just as you have seen on TV for those Taiwan food programmes, there are rows and rows of foods stalls along the street. They are like our pasa malam. Only operating from evening till pass midnight. The habit for Taiwanese when they visit night market, is to walk, stop , eat… followed by walk, stop, eat… at different stores till the end of the street. This can add up to many dishes by the time you walk from one end to the other.
our 1st stop... deep fried pork rib soup
posing with our food... again
next, cold beancurd with green bean
look at the generous topping of green bean
3rd stop... famour deep fried chicken 盐酥鸡
we only ordered 1 portion as there are more to eat along the way
this store serves something like a fish cake with a hard boil egg wrapped inside
next stop， the drink store... the home-made winter melon tea was very thirst quenching
our last dish for the night.... oyster omelette
look.. the oyster omelette is the same size as the serving plate
Comments: The night market is a very interesting place for me. Each and every night market has their store mix. I always think that this is an interesting place to explore the typical local food culture. Prices are quite cheap and you can really try many types of dishes. My suggestion is to always share the portion with your friends no matter how tasty the food .. this is so that there is no cause for over-eating and you can try as many dishes as possible..