One of the Best Leisure in Osaka – Singing Karaoke !

Karaoke in Japan is a huge phenomenon that is extremely popular among everyone in any age group. It can be a past time for retirees, a hobby for students or just for working adults that need to take the stress off. There is no way you can walk down a street in the city without seeing numerous karaoke stores or staff on the streets handing out flyers, advertisements or holding a signboard yelling out the latest promotions.

The karaoke room you get varies from the number of people you have in your party. It also depends on the peak hours and whether the karaoke house is full up or not. You are also allowed to smoke in the rooms, so don’t be surprised if you smell smoke while walking through the corridors.

Songs are very up to date and they have a huge selection of English, Chinese and Korean songs too. Also, if you get hungry or you need a drink, be it alcohol or not, karaoke rooms also have menus that are quite affordable for food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Usually if you have a package, non-alcoholic drinks are free.

A Walk Through the Ancient World of Geisha at Kyoto’s Gion

The history of Gion (祇園) back dated to the Middle Ages, where it has been a district built t accommodate the needs of ttravelersand visitors visiting Yasaka Shrine. Slowly, the area gained its fame and become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha (芸者)districts in Japan.

While geisha refers to “artist” or “person of the arts” in Japan, Gion geisha uses a local term called geiko (芸子), meaing “a child of the arts” or “a woman of art”. Though there are considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion, it is still famous for the preservation for the traditional architecture and entertainment. Partial of the district is being preserved under national historical buildings and there are ongoing restoration on the streets og Gion, including shifting of all overhead utilities underground to preserve the original beauty of Gion.

The Gion district is being divided into two communities, Gion Kobu (祇園甲部) and Gion Higashi (祇園東). The Kobu occupies a larger area while Higashi is smaller and located northeast corner of the district, amidst of the rehearsal hall.

During my trip to Kyoto, I visited Gion Corner (ギオンコナー) in Yasaka Hall (弥栄会館), showcased on the display was some of the ornaments and accessories used by geisha during in the past. The history of hair pin could back date to Prehistoric Japan about 12,000 BC in Jomon Time(縄文時代), which later the use of hair pin flourished in Nara Times after different cultural hair pin is being introduced from China.

As era cultural started to change, the complexity of the hair pin also started to evolve. The hair pin are being designed and wore by the women based on different seasons and occasions. The main material used for creation of the hair pin in the past was either silver, tin or copper and decorated beautifully with precious metals, jade and corals at times.

Life of a Geisha

I could not explain much of their lifes, but if you really wanted to see how stringent and their routines practise to become a Geisha, you could watch the movie directed by Rob Marshall, Memoirs Of A Geisha, starring Zhang Ziyi. The movie has won numerous awards and nominations for six Academy Awards.

We was intending to catch a performance at Yasaka Hall, but due to the timing, my friend had to rush her last train back to Tokyo to meet up with my another friend, we had to give it a go and went for a short coffee break instead.

Updated on 20 Jan 2014

Enjoying Kyoto’s Famous Tofu, Yuba and Unagi With My Singaporean Friend

My Yuba lunch set

Beside known as a ancient city for Geisha, Kyoto is also famous for three food – Tofu (豆腐), Yuba (ゆば) and Unagi (鰻). Though it was not my first time to Kyoto (I have went there before during my school excursion trip), I did not really tried on the local delicacies As my friend was visiting Kyoto for the first time, I thought it would be good to bring her for those, but we only managed to eat Yuba and Unagi as the Tofu are quite pricey, around 1,500 yen (S$ 22.50).

Some might wonder why Kyoto is famous for Tofu and Yuba. One of the reasons is because Kyoto is place for Buddhism devotees where there are thousands of temples within the city, while another reason is because Tofu and Yuba requires lots of water during the making process and quality of the water affects the taste of the end product. Kyoto’s water is famous for its purity and thus helps to make the Tofu and Yuba tastier.

Kobe Trip Chapter 13 – Going Back to Osaka

Finally, the festival are over and the crowd are dispersing. It was time that we have to return to Osaka (else we will be sleeping on the streets of Kobe), however, my Korean friend wasted no time but to take more photos before leaving the beautiful decorated Kobe.

As a matter of fact, we have been walking for hours since our arrival at Kobe in the afternoon, starting from Sannomiya. While we struggled to walk to back to the station, we managed to catch the last train back to Osaka…. for nice late night coffee and supper.
Well, although I had already developed the habits of having late night supper in Singapore, I just got more companions over here in Osaka, tasting Korean food. Cheers.

神戸ルミナリエ 第13話 帰る!!!(13.12.08)


My One Day Stay at Kobe Portopia Hotel

Nice views, this area is mostly surrounded by industry as it is near to sea ports and companies would use this advantages to boost their company services.

Views of the hotel room. Though the size is not that big, but the design is quite modern. The only bad thing about the room is probably the lighting. Good for travelers, but if you intend to do some business meetings in the room , I think it is better to change a place for it.

Kobe Portopia Hotel
10-1, 6 Chome, Minatojima Nakamachi
Chuo-ku, Kobe, 650-0046, Japan
Tel: +81-78-3021111
Fax: +81-78-3026877

MacDonald’s Potato Bacon Pie and McRIB Burger

Japan has been trying to improve their creativity in food, including fast-food restaurants like MacDonalds. I have been working there for a year and seen many new products out on the selves. Below are two that has been out recently, but for a limited time.

I was quite curious on this new burger called McRIB because I was told it was delicious by my friends. Thought it has the same taste as Teriyaki Burger, but better aroma.

Let’s take a dessert ! Kinda sick of apple pie… it is good that this Bacon Potato pie came to my rescue. It reminded me of Campbell’s Baked potato with Cheddar and Bacon bits soup, which are impossible to find even in large supermarkets.

Bicycle As A Main Transportation Mean in Japan

Majorities of the Singaporean would consider cycling as a sports in East Coast Park, but would never thought of it as a general mean of transport. Furthermore, it is not an easy task to ride along streets as Singapore traffic rules are too difficult to abide with. Just too many !

Surprisingly, Japanese uses bicycle like a normal transportation and sights of bicycles can be seen anywhere, yes even in the darkest corners of the streets. The interesting thing that you can find salary man in a suit and yet riding on a bicycle early in the morning. While some others use it as a substitute for walking from their home to the train station, and it is the reason why there are always that much of bicycles ‘gathering’ around train stations areas.

For me, it is a transport to and fro school, my part time shop and while going out with friends. Now, I would consider it very troublesome if I do not have a bicycle for my transport, the reasoning being taking a train to school (around 35 mins) and riding a bicycle to school (15 mins) is a much better choice, as in I can sleep for another 20 mins more every morning. Haha.

Cigarette Vending Machines at Osaka, Japan

I was cleaning up my photo albums one day and I saw this interesting photo which thought it might be good to post it on my blog. One interesting fact in Japan is that are so many 7-11, family mart located along the street which are just few meters away, the streets are still being littered with vending machines selling drinks and cigarettes. I did a brief calculation the number of vending machines around a block and guess what ? There is a total of more than 20 vending machines ! A sight which you will never see in Singapore. These vending machines are available 24 hours along the street, so hooray for the smokers ! By the way, the cigarettes that are selling in Japan tasted and smell much better than those selling in Singapore…

Different Culture Views

Japanese certainly have a different views compared to Singapore in terms of control of cigarettes selling. While Singapore has banned cigarettes advertisement donkey years ago, Japan are selling them with vending machines and advertisements all over the place. Better still, they are also selling alcoholic drinks e.g. beers straight from the vending machines as well.

cigarettes vending machines lined along the streets

Control of Cigarette Selling to Underage

It is definite a question that how can they control underage from buying cigarettes from the vending machines. Initially while I was in Japan, I did not really see much control being done and there is only a message pasted onto the vending machines that underage should not smoke cigarettes. 
A year later in Osaka, they have came out with a new system called the “Taspo” card, which you will need to register at one of their booth free of charge and tap the card on the panel before you purchase the cigarettes. Furthermore, they have implemented time restriction on the vending machines to operate till 10 or 11pm in the night and available at 5am in the morning at some places to strengthen the restrictions.

No long later, they have equipped all cigarettes vending machines with face recognition panel, and the camera will scan your face to determine your age. If you passed, you can buy the cigarettes without using the Taspo card. It was quite innovative way to control underage, but I am not sure how effective face recognition can be. 

This is how the IC card looks like

Life Being Too Digitalised ?

While the Japanese has made it so convenient that is no human interaction at all. This could means technology are building up barriers between people and breaking communication. Looking at Singapore, if you are buying cigarettes from the same family mart or coffeeshop, at least the uncle or auntie will interactive and chat with you, but apparently Japanese like to stay in their own life without interference. In the instance of some restaurants, you can just go to the vending machine, make a selection of your intended lunch, make payment and bring the coupon to the counter. They will served you immediately. Without a word. Some could understand the convenient of such system as it bring ease and speed up proceed, especially foreigners like us, but you can just feel the lack of communication.

Too Much Electricity Usage?

Seriously, I am not sure who is paying for the electricity of these vending machines, but I think they are spending far too much electricity and resources in a densely populated province like Osaka. I think I will be fine with 7-11, at least I could grab a bite at the same time.

My Japanese Language School – Meric Japanese School

This is the Japanese Language School which I am currently studying at, located near the computer street, Nipponbashi and as well Namba, where you can find a lot of shopping areas.

MERIC Japanese Language School
1-10-6 Nippombashi-Higashi Naniwa-ku
Osaka 556-0006
Tel: 06-6646-0606
Fax: 06-6646-0320

There are staff who can speaks English, Mandarin and a female staff who can speaks Spanish.