nippon ga daisuki dayo

日本! *clap clap clap* 日本! *clap clap clap*

Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore Japan and Japanese culture. There is something mysterious and moving about Japan that sweeps you off your feet, and pretty soon you find yourself being caught up in this dynamic culture. From the timeless beauty of olden traditions to the upbeat modern life, there’s just so much to experience with Japan and its culture.

Music

Japanese pop has been a great part of my life. Till today, I prefer Japanese music over any other music.

 

My love for Japanese culture really began with music. About 15 years ago when I was in secondary school, the 哈日风 (Japanese craze) hit Singapore’s shores. Japanese TV and music were the first things that seeped in quickly. I will always remember watching Music Station, a famous Japanese music programme where artistes would sing their latest singles. It was a great music programme as I got introduced to Japanese music and got to know about new artistes. And of course, Singaporeans were very much into SPEED and “White Love”, while my sister and I fell in love with MAX. Yup, MAX became the first Japanese music group that I liked.

If you’re female, it would be quite accurate to say that you have fangirled a Johnny’s boy/group some time in your life. Oh yes, the mysterious marketing powers of (the) Johnny’s Entertainment empire that makes every teenage girl (and some Japanese ah mas…I really kid you not) weak in her knees. I started out as a great Arashi fan…so much that I carved the members’ names on my secondary 3 school desk. Then, NewS came along. 🙂

Over the years, I got introduced to more and more Japanese artistes. If you take a look at my music play list now, you’ll see that Japanese music dominates it. When I go to KTV, I look for Japanese songs to sing. Yes, that’s how much I love Japanese music.

If you ask me why the love for Japanese music, it’s not something that I can quite explain in words why. It’s just different…plus there’s lots of eye candy.

Dramas and Movies

Back then, local TV was showing Japanese dramas…just like how Korean dramas proliferate it now. Being closely linked to music, I of course, had to watch dramas starring my favourite artistes. If TV wasn’t enough, the video shops were selling (pirated) vcds so you could easily keep up with the J-dorama marathon. Sad to say, all that came to an end when Japan started to clamp down on piracy. Soon, the Japanese craze in Singapore died down. BUT, my love for Japanese stuff did not die along with the exit of the Japanese craze.

School work got heavier for me as the years went by and I found it hard to keep up with Japanese dramas, so I turned to Japanese movies. The storyline and theatrics for some movies are just so good. Simple, yet thought-provoking.

Manga and Anime

When we talk about Japanese stuff, who can forget about manga and anime? Japanese manga and anime has been a part of my life since primary school. Oh yes, Sailor Moon. That laid the foundation for my liking of the shoujo genre in manga and anime.

Thanks to a poly friend, I was introduced to Ai Yazawa and NANA. Two of her best works — NANA and Paradise Kiss — are now my favourites. I love how she portrays the difficulties and complexities of life in a way that is so brutally honest and real.

Language

How can you truly love Japanese music, film and animation, without loving the language. You can rely on translations all your life, but soon you will realise that it is hard to get the exact feel and description without understanding the work in its original language.

But of course, learning a new language isn’t easy. Yet, I took the plunge. After going through intensive Japanese classes in college, I completed the intermediate level. Sadly, it is still not enough to understand music lyrics and conversations in its entirety…not to even mention how tough it is for me to actually hold a conversation in Japanese. Haha, I can probably only manage anime that’s meant for elementary school kids if I were to watch something with subtitles. But at least, I get the gist of some sentences in lyrics and films.

日本語を勉強は難しいけど、私は絶対頑張ります。

Tradition

If you thought that my love for Japanese culture is only skin deep, you’re wrong. As I grew up and entered college, something made me want to learn more about Japanese culture. I took a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture, with a focus on Japan. I took classes on Japanese history and literature. As I dug deeper, I began to see things in a whole new light and started to appreciate Japanese culture in all its glory and simplistic beauty. Before college, my family had made Japan an annual holiday location. Back then, when I walked the grounds of castles, temples and old streets, they never left a strong impact on me. After college, armed with a better understanding of Japanese history, I revisited some of the places so I could soak in the atmosphere and feel the true meaning of how the past has changed and influenced the future. The dynamic nature of trends can transform Japan and make it attractive to the modern world, but the beauty of olden traditions will always get passed down and leave a lasting impression (like the finishing touches to an art piece).

Japanese culture is also experienced through the arts. Although I do not have a firm grasp of the language, I’ve been to traditional theatre performances such as Noh and Bunraku. There’s something intriguing about these performances as it mixes storytelling, folklore and religious practices.

Back in Singapore, I try to immerse myself in Japanese tradition by taking part in Japanese-related activities such as the annual Natsu Matsuri (Japanese summer festival). Wearing a yukata is a must for me and my sister!

Fashion

After talking about the tradition, one must talk about trends. If you love Japan and its culture, then you gotta love its fashion. The Japanese fashion trend is pretty fast paced. If you remember the loose Japanese school girl socks, those are now passe. How about the 109 辣妹 look (probably referring to the yamanba phase in gyaru fashion)? That is long gone too.

For me, I fell in love with lolita fashion when I was in college. Lolita fashion itself has gone through a lot of changes since the beginning of it (with Mana and the gothic look). I’m not going to delve to much into what is lolita fashion and which styles I love as you can know more through my other blog entries specifically on lolita fashion. Just know that I love the aesthetics of the fashion — the grace and elegance that it stands for. I love it so much that I had to wear a lolita dress and dress my helpers in lolita outfits for my wedding.

Food

ラーメンが大~大~大好き~~~<3

I have covered almost every conceivable topic on Japan and Japanese culture, but wait…there’s one more. Food! There’s just so many dishes in Japanese cuisine that you have to try, other than sushi and sashimi. There’s tempura, udon, soba, somen, okonomiyaki, curry rice, onigiri, tako yaki, etc. Just listing all of this is making my mouth water. You can find all the tastes in Japanese cuisine…sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy…and not forgetting, umami. There are different foods for the different seasons too — think sakura mochi and ice-cream in spring, yaki soba (fried soba) and mitarashi dango (soy sauce dango) in summer, kuri (chestnuts) in autumn and nabe (hot pot) in winter…mmmm…. So many different tastes and choices, what’s there not to love about Japanese food? You’ll never get bored with Japanese food!

If you’re still not convinced that you’ll never be bored with Japanese food, just look at Japanese Kit Kat as an example. Have you seen the variety of flavours for it? Even with ice-cream, there’s flavours like miso and squid ink. The Japanese are rather creative with their food. Haha. XD

But, my one true love in Japanese food is…RAMEN! Sorry, but as I told a friend before, my love for Japanese ramen is not just about how popular the stall is. It’s not just simply downing a bowl of ramen and rating is good or bad. It’s about how every ingredient tastes in the bowl of ramen and how it contributes to the overall enjoyment of eating. Generally speaking, I like the fresh noodles that’s not too thick or thin; stick ramen does not sit well with me. For the broth, I prefer tonkotsu or miso as they have a more full and robust flavour. For toppings, I especially love ajitama (soy sauce flavoured soft-boiled egg).

PS: I’m still looking for a good tsukemen in Singapore.

 

So after all this talk about my love for Japan and Japanese culture, what exactly am I getting at? Well, you see…KFC has some new wings on their menu and it’s a tough choice between the Umadare wings or Yang Yeum wings.

BATTLE OF THE KFC WINGS

Freshly breaded in-store with a special batter, these juicy wings are cooked to crispy perfection and coated in your choice of two bold flavours – choose between the Japanese-inspired tangy yet savoury Umadare and the Korean-inspired sweet and spicy Yang Yeum. Who will be crowned king of the wings? You decide.

Pick a side and be part of KFC’s greatest wing-off. Hashtag #kfcoishii to support Umadare or #kfcmashisoyo to support Yang Yeum on Instagram!

I vote for #kfcoishii. What about you?

One wing got eaten up before I could take the picture. Too oishii to resist…

spring time at starbucks

Every time March comes around, I get pretty excited because it’s time to check out the spring time merchandise at Starbucks! Specifically, the Sakura series. It started out in Japan, but slowly other Asian countries (including Singapore) caught on.

So what’s this year’s picks?

Starbucks Japan

Bolder colours like hot pink and yellow seem to be adopted for this year’s range in Japan. Nothing really caught my eye except for that pop bottle in the middle of the picture. Cute shape but not much use for me.

I was more excited over the drinks and desserts…

Look at the pinkness! I am so going to try these when I’m in Japan in April! <3

 

Starbucks Korea

There’s a different range of merchandise in Korea. There’s the usual baby pink and white toned merchandise, as well as some purple toned merchandise. Kinda like that baby pink tumbler in the picture, but again, have no use for more hot water tumblers.

The drinks look interesting. I like the pink chocolate flakes on the top as they remind me of sakura petals. A bit meh about the white chocolate drink though. So far, all the white chocolate drinks I’ve drunk at Starbucks are too sweet for my liking. Perhaps the Cherry Blossom Latte might be a better choice…though I’m awfully picky when it comes to sakura drinks. They must have a strong sakura taste and not just faint hints of it.

The dessert selection didn’t look interesting to me though. Unlike Japan’s Sakura Chiffon Cake, the Cherry Mascapone Fresh Cream Cake looks really rich and the kind you’ll get sick off halfway.

 

Starbucks Singapore

The range in Singapore is quite similar to Korea’s. Nothing really caught my eye. Was hoping that they’ll have a large straw tumbler so I can replace my cracked one from last year’s Sakura series, but they don’t have one this year. It’s just the regular small straw tumbler. Meh.

There are no special sakura drinks or desserts in Singapore. Another meh.

 

Starbucks Taiwan

There is a small collection of sakura-themed merchandise in Taiwan, but it’s not strongly advertised. Instead, they advertised their sheep-themed merchandise for Chinese New Year.

The red is really striking and some of the mugs and tumblers are pretty cute.

 

My verdict? This year’s Starbucks Sakura merchandise is not as interesting as last year’s. Nothing really stood out much and made me really want to get it. Guess I’ll look forward to next year’s range. Hope there’s something good then.

whole tomato rice

I think there’s this sudden craze on cooking whole tomato rice, but what’s not to like when it’s a healthy dish that’s really easy to cook too?

I’m not the greatest cook so simple, fuss-free recipes are the way to go for me. My favourite sites are Noob Cook and Ochikeron’s YouTube channel where the recipes look really easy to follow. To be honest, this is my first time following a recipe to cook a dish. (Yea, so much for recommending those two sites. Have really been lazy to do anything special. Haha.)

I followed Ochikeron’s recipe:

The recipe is for four servings/people, so I just halved it because there’s only me and hubby.

Instead of using plain water for the rice, I used dashi. Thought it would give the rice more flavour. Didn’t go through the fuss of making my own dashi. (Didn’t I mention that I’m lazy and want things fuss-free?) I just used the dashi sachets I got from NTUC. The one I got is about $11 for 20 sachets. It can be used for other things like the base for oden, dipping sauce, etc.

I also added marinated chicken fillet, fresh shitake, and frozen mixed vegetables. I usually marinate chicken with a little light soya sauce and sesame oil.

This was how it looked like after it was done cooking. Not too bad. Smelled pretty good too…

Mixed the tomato with the rice…

At this point, I realised tomatoes are really juicy. After mixing, the rice was a little too wet. I know that Ochikeron advised to remove some water, but I thought dashi would be a little different. Besides, I’m using brown rice which needs more water than white rice. White rice needs one cup of water to one cup of rice. Brown rice needs about one and a half to one and three quarter cups of water to one cup of rice. Guess I should have just taken her advice.

I felt the rice could do with a little less salt. Perhaps the dashi also added to saltiness. So slightly less salt if using dashi. Shall try again with plain water to taste the difference.

Do try cooking this some time. It’s really simple to make.

the domestic goddess

I’m the kind of girl who believes in the traditional view that all girls must learn to cook, sew and housekeep. Well, if you think about it, you’ll be pretty much self-sufficient if you can do all three. Except I’m not particularly a good cook and I can’t sew much. I used to be the kind that would burn down the kitchen if I ever stepped into one, but my college days have trained me well. I can now whip up a few simple dishes. They are definitely not Michelin-star quality, but at least the husband does not complain so that’s good. (I think he’s too kind.)

Lately, I’m sick of cooking the same few dishes so I decided to add two more tofu dishes to my cooking repertoire. Anyway, the main point of this entry is to introduce two cooking sites I’ve found that are really useful. (Haha…who am I kidding? I think I have phantom readers.)

The first one is Noob Cook. As the title of website suggests, the recipes featured here are simple to follow and have relatively few steps as they are meant for beginners. Recipes are mainly local dishes or to suit the local palette.

 

The other one is actually a YouTube channel. Being a fan of Japanese culture, I would love to cook some Japanese dishes. Ochikeron’s channel features recipes for Japanese dishes. Her videos are rather detailed and seem easy to follow. She doesn’t just give verbal instructions, she actually shows you step by step how to cook a dish. This is really helpful for a beginner like me, who has to measure exactly every sauce or spice. (Ok, I’ve actually levelled up a teeny bit. I only need to measure exactly the first time I cook a dish. After that I just adjust approximately to taste.)

 

I haven’t really tried any of the recipes in both sites except to check the oven temperature for baked rice/pasta and timing for steamed tofu, but I guess I’ll be relying on both sites a bit more in the future. Need to learn to cook more dishes!

night cleansing

Am sipping the Night Cleanse tea (second brew) as I write this post.

Was expecting the ginger taste to be really strong, but it’s surprisingly quite mild. The peppermint taste is also not too strong and rather calming. I only tasted the ginger when I reached the bottom of the cup.

Hope it calms the achy feeling I got in my lower abdominal area this morning. Not sure if it had anything to do with the Morning Boost tea I drank this morning…shall monitor as I go along.

dare to be gorgeous

Regular Facebook users should have noticed by now the ads for this detox…or teatox programme called SkinnyMint.

Detox has been on my mind for some time now. Ever since I started work, I’ve been battling a constipation problem. I also had a persistent pimple problem on my back. I figured what I really needed was a good detox. My mother-in-law had recommended some Chinese herbal pills which worked, but she said it wasn’t good to take them regularly, so I had to find an alternative. When I finally stopped work, I vowed to drink more water to flush out the toxins. It worked…sort of. The pimple problem on my back is more or less gone, but I can’t help but feel like I still need a good detox.

I must say that I’m rather “cautious” about such programmes because I’m afraid that the chemicals used in the product produce bad side effects. So, I read the website carefully. Seems like the teas are made from natural herbs/ingredients.

Testimonials from other users can only do so much to persuade me. First, some people are paid/sponsored to write reviews. Second, even if these people are not paid/sponsored, most of them have good figures to begin with. That was until I saw a testimonial from someone like me…who neither exercises regularly nor maintains a strict diet. Ok, now I’m bought into this.

The programme seems easy to follow. No drastic changes to my current lifestyle. One Morning Boost teabag every morning and one Night Cleanse teabag every other night.

So here goes nothing…

The Morning Boost tea has a rather fruity scent. Thought it would have a strong berry taste like the Lipton Forest Fruit tea, but it surprisingly tastes quite mild. I don’t put sugar in my teas as I prefer the original taste of the herbs. I have cultivated the habit to drink sugarless tea after one too many encounters of drink stall aunties/uncles putting far too much sugar despite ordering teh o siu dai. Since I can’t control how much sugar they put in my teh o and I can’t tahan super sweet tea, I’ll rather have no sugar in my tea at all. The only exception is when I drink lemon tea, the sour/bitter taste is just too much and that’s when I put a little honey to improve the taste.

My only little complaint is that the string for the teabag is a tad too short. It keeps slipping into the mug when I top up the hot water. To prevent that, I like to twirl it round the mug handle. But even that is a little difficult with this teabag. Hmmm…

Other thoughts: I’m still skeptical on the losing weight part but if I do, that’ll be a bonus. Right now, I just want to effectively flush out the toxins in my body.

PS: Sorry, no tummy photos yet as it’s beyond my level of comfort to share that much. Just know that I DO HAVE a pooh bear stomach. Haha.

desserts and cupcakes

We have booked the place for our wedding reception. Yay! Though I’m a little sad that I can’t get my ex-colleague to do a dessert table or even bake some cupcakes as wedding favours. I kind of knew that a dessert table was out of the question, but the place said “strictly no outside food”. Orz.

There aren’t many shops or places that I would strongly recommend for cupcakes (except for that place in New York), but Des bakes good stuff. I have high standards for desserts. They can’t be too sweet (such that they taste artificial). Twelve Cupcakes is good but mainstream, and I’m usually afraid of chain stores. They can be good, but once they start rapidly expanding, their quality goes down. Besides, Des has some stuff that is different and she doesn’t stinge on ingredients.

So, if you want a good cupcake, I’ll recommend Des’ business called Pretty Delish. As the name suggests, her cupcakes are pretty delicious. My favourite is her lychee rose cupcake.

 

kirei sakura

I know Starbucks has been releasing their popular Sakura goods for quite a few years now, but newbie Starbucks fan here has got to make a post now.

The goods are so cute…and pink! My favourite colour! Here are some of the goods I like. *big hint*

I like the two pink hot water tumblers behind. I can’t decide which I like better…maybe the one with the flip top cap on the far right?

Then there’s the regular Starbucks mug on the left with the special Sakura print. 超きれい!

And this! I got the Christmas version of this during our office gift exchange, but it was the smaller one. I really wanted the larger one and now they have it with the Sakura print!

Of course, kaypoh me had to go check out what Japan and Korea Starbucks were offering for their Sakura goods.

*spazz*

Japan Starbucks didn’t really have nicer ones but they have this…

A set of glasses, one’s clear and the other’s frosted. The clear one has print that turns pink when cold liquid is poured into the glass. So cute!

And they have a special drink — Sakura Chocolate! Ah…now I really miss having Sakura-flavoured soft cream in Japan…

Korea Starbucks had quite a few cute pink Sakura print mugs too, but they have since taken down some of the pictures from their website. Guess those are sold out already.

new food items at Starbucks

Mmmmmm…sounds good to me. I don’t usually have meals at Starbucks coz the food is awfully pricey ($12+ for meatball pasta when I can get a decent plate of spaghetti at Cintech for $6). It’s just an occasional thing when I do decide to eat something there. I usually get the meatball penne or roasted chicken and vegetable wrap or creamy/curry ugly chicken puff. I strongly recommend the wrap. If you think it’s small and won’t fill you up, you’re wrong. Plus the mushroom truffle dip is really good.