Location: Hiroshima, Japan
And the journey continues... OCTOBER 2007
Hello hello world! Has it been 10 months already since the last adventure ended? Yes indeed, the year of the golden pig has brought many fortunes as the gods or the moons or the stars predicted - new people, new places, new thoughts and faces.
Where did this year go? Time has flown as fast as the golden pigs.
In Japan once again. This time a different adventure. One for and with our family. We started with business and will end with pleasure.
October 13th 2007 - left for a one night stopver in Malaysia - us three troublemakers and Ben. His first time to our hometown - his eyes were wide-eyed tempted with mouth-watering delicacies and flavours, woken by the sound of the 5am morning muslim moqsue hyms, followed by cheeky bag-snatching monkeys at Batu Caves, fresh hacked-open coconuts and Malay boys filming for some cool-dude video clip! Dropped a 22kg suitcase brim-full of cadbury chocolate - we have a large family with an unsatiable appetite for real Australian milk chocolate - which only gets satisfied every two years when we visit. Understandable since Malaysia has a certain lack of cows and compensates with condensed or powdered milk. Yum. Our aunt and uncle fill our bellies with the best of Malaysian cuisine. We are full up to our ears.
October 14th 2007 - departure for Tokyo. Night flight, easy. Sleep all the way. Except for the 3am breakfeast of curry and rice. No thanks!
October 15th 2007 - Arrival in Tokyo. Excitement built up, bubble about to burst, good morning indeed. Business for 5 days. We work, Ben plays. Foggy-eyed, after about 5 train changes, we make it to our hotel in Roppongi. Our first time in a fancy hotel in Japan. Only a brief rest and wash in the foyer toilet, then we start our Japan trade mission at midday. We meet an excellent bunch of Aussie designers - from tshirts and men's streetwear, to leatherwear to kitsch jewellery and even desk and office stationery cases. We set of on a bus adventure to the outskirts of Tokyo for "market research". MY GOODNESS! Middle-grade department store/shopping mall/complex in the suburbs selling garments at prices that would not even cover our production costs. Reality check?! Slightly deflated and lost for words, we end the night in the midst of Tokyo crazy neon-lit fashionable mid-city boutique town wear the cool only get cooler. That's more like it?! Hmm...not sure about that either...
October 16th 2007 - market research day. With Ben in tow, we trek off to wander the wonderful streets of Tokyo - Shibuya, Omotesando, Aoyama, down backlanes and side streets in search of something quirky. Within the first few minutes, we stumble across a fantastic design store which steals our attention for most of the morning (it was a big store!). Excited and with great envy, we leave with a small parcel of goodies...what happened to simple living, no material things, grow your own vegetables? Aeiii! Followed by an awesome feed at a ramen noodle house, spicy noodles like your grandma never used to make...then back to the Aus embassy to iron a super sized suitcase of garments for the trade exhibition opening. Hours later, clothing pressed, slightly anxious, we meet a bunch of Japanese journalists and press reps for a seminar about Aus fashion design...and a cocktail reception which served Aussie beer, wine, cheese and ham, crocodile tarts, kangaroo burgers and RUMBALLS?!
The japs LOVED it, we laughed alot, the interviews in broken Japlish was hilarious, we hoped for the best. My weird japanese conversations about drunken red faces, jumping kangaroos and 'men at work', eventually ended up with a bunch of us designers lead by the Japs trekking through the local streets looking for a suitable drinking hole. Hours later, they leave us stranded and we find some dodgy underground bar and dance the (entire) night away! Imagine, the nutbush to some weird Japanese electronic adaptation?! Oh my goodness.
October 17th 2007 - not enough sleep + early start = not good! we met with various people throughout the day, lots to learn about the Jap fashion market. Tough, competitive, interesting, niche. Need time, money, research and PR support. Like every market!
October 18th 2007 - the Foong family arrive in JAPAN!!! Greet mum and dad, grandpa and grandma at Narita airport. They've been waiting for this day for a long time!!! But have to work - so Ben becomes part-time tour guide - what a champ! We meet more people, buyers, agents, media - lots to learn - maybe not suitable?
We take our family out for the first amazing Jap meal in Ebisu. Amazing. They are overwhelmed with the trains, sights, smells and tastes. Everyone is so stylish! Mum vows only to wear nice shoes from now on. We rock at our favourite ryokan to check in, oh shite. it's past 10pm, completely forgot! thank goodness for Eddy who was still doing the books and let us in! He remembers us from the previous two times we have stayed. We promise him beers tomorrow night!
...until next time...
Location: Newcastle - home, Australia
Saturday 17th February, 01.25. My feet have walked on Australian ground for just over 5 weeks now. Unbelievable. Is it already February? Is Summer almost over? Am I really home? Where am I? Why doesn't anyone speak Japanese? Gee...where are all the Asians? How come I am so short? Where's the sushi? Where's all the packaging? How come nobody bows? Where's the snow shovel? Where are the fresh-picked vegies? Why doesn't the train come every 2 minutes? Where am I? Did I really go to Japan?
I cannot believe that my three month adventure has ended. I cannot believe even more that more than a month has passed since I returned. Funny how time can just come and go as it pleases, doesn't even have the courtesy to ask permission first.
I have the serious case of post-Japan-depression...I think many people experience this phenomenon when they go travelling. Every day is different and new and exciting when you are travelling, the days slow down, you can experience so much in such a short space of time, and you kind of lose a sense of reality, and then when you return, the days just seem to fly by without you even noticing...you observe that everything is pretty much the same as when you left, but at the same time, everything is different. Perhaps its just you that is different. The travel bug (leech perhaps?) has latched itself tightly onto you...and there is no escaping. How exciting! i love leeches! Metaphorically speaking (???). So while the sounds, aromas and tastes of Japan still linger...life continues on its merry little way but perhaps now with a little more open-mindedness, determination to learn every language in the world and a strong will to save every penny for the next adventure. I can't wait.
And in the midst of Japan-travelling chaos, I failed to realise that people had been sending me messages on this blog. Apologies to all. And thank you to Banno-sir for alerting me to my dodgy efforts as an amateur blogger. So I have belated answers to messages and some pics of my final weeks in Japan and Malaysia and Singapore.
Thanks for being such an awesome audience. You never questioned what I was doing. You never made me come home early. We didn't argue about anything. So thanks for sitting quietly and enjoying the ride. I most certainly did.
Oh and a very Happy Chinese New Year (of the inoshishi - pig!) - for tomorrow Sunday 18th Feb. I have to say thank you the the dog...my birth year. 1982. Dogs are cool. My grandma, being so superstitious and awesome as she is, told me last year that the when your birth year comes around (when you are 12 yrs old, 24, 36 etc...) it will be an important one. Many things will happen, good and bad, and you will make many decisions. Be careful and be wise. And man was she right. I cannot even count the amount of stuff that happened in the year of the dog. And today is the last day of the year. How appropriate. My three month Japanese adventure in the year of the dog. I guess for now it's sayounara dog and konnichiwa pig. We shall meet again in a dozen years time...
Thank you thank you thank you. Hontou ni arigatou gozaimashita.
Mata sugu ne...
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Happy new year!
Today officially marks 3 months since I left the sunny shores of Oz, and now I sit here in my old house in lovely, hot and humid Malaysia, my family chatting loudly in cantonese and mandarin in the background...my little cousins running around...the smells of tropical fruits, pineapple tarts, nasi lemak, roti canai and satay wofting about. As usual, the trip back here has been hectic...playing a game of how many Foong's and Yap's can you visit in 10 days! A brief 4 day trip to Singapore was fun filled...hanging out with my cousins and chatting til wee hours of the morning. The memories of beautiful, convenient, efficient, fast, excellent service Japan came flooding back as I sat on the 'fast train' back from Singapore, which took a super quick 7 hours (instead of the usual 4 hrs), highlights included the broken air conditioning followed by a lovely stench of body odour on a 35 degree day! HA! :) But nothing beats a stroll through the night market, a brief cooling downpour followed by watching an 'excellent' quality DVD with the foong clan. Thanks to all!!!
So now my adventure ends...tomorrow I return. And hopefully another adventure begins.
It has been a freakin amazing 3 months...seen manybeautiful places, met so many incredible people and experienced alot of things that I really had only dreamed of.
Thanks to everyone who has crossed my path and helped me along the way...I miss Japan already! :)
See you in Aus! Perhaps see you again in Japan...I only hope it is one day soon.
Lights out. Goodnight!
Location: Yokohama, near Tokyo, Japan
Hey hey, we meet again...
Merry Christmas and all that jazz...hope you`ve all had a crazy fun-filled family holidays full of presents that you wanted and turkey and eggnog and fruitcake. Ok maybe not but happy holidays from Japan!
Only 2 days left of my 12 week rollercoaster north to south to north ride through Japan...I can`t believe it! Not really wanting it to end...
I am now with the awesome Yoko (and Junkun!) and her beautiful family in Yokohama ...what a perfect way to end my stay here. Thank you so very much!!! Christmas is not a public holiday here so I was stoked...just like any other day, everything is open! Japanese people eat chicken instead of turkey and there are so many amazing Christmas cakes, that could beat any french pattiserie! We celebrated by eating jumbo sushi, drank champagne and ate cake, and watched the Christmas `illumination` by Yokohoma harbour. Very different to the usual Foong Christmas Day of staying at home and doing house cleaning coz nothing is open, followed by a yummy Chinese feast. :)
I am standing on the beach, knee deep in water, trying not to get sucked into the ocean by the pull of waves...my head full of Japanese words, my body automated to bow, my hand used to covering my mouth to laugh, my tastebuds spoilt by the delicious flavours of soy, sake, mirin, tofu, seaweed, sushi, sashimi, nabe, udon, soba, macha, black sesame and of course ANPAN (red bean!) etc... But Australia calls, so does my sisters and mum and dad...and Anthony...
But first...MALAYSIA! for ten days. With my family waiting in Kuala Lumpur and my bags full of weird Japanese gifts...see you soon!
x Nipponpoi ange-chan
Location: Sapporo and Niseko (Hokkaido), Japan
Holy freaking craps!!!
You know that feeling when you see something so awesome you want to jump up and down and scream and shake everyone around you and roll on the ground and then self implode?! Ok maybe that`s a bit extreme but I died on the plane looking at the aerial view of Hokkaido, flying into Sapporo airport!!! Everything was covered in snow, clean beautiful white snow, the rice fields and houses and forests outlined by the dark lines of the roads and highways. You could see the amazing mountain peaks covered in snow with only a few patches of green from the forest foilage waiting for its winter feed. In only a few days time I hoped to be skiing on one of those mountains...
Leaving behind the memories of sewing and fabric and puffer fish and Osaka Bon Jovis...I jumped on a plane heading to the Northern island of Japan. Sapporo, the main city, was my first stop (yes there`s a big Sapporo beer factory and beer garden)...stepping out of the subway onto snow! Snow everywhere! The bicycles, cars, trees covered in snow...lucky I was equipped with my big yellow gumboots purchased in Osaka, for the snow on the footpaths had turned into ice, dangerous for anyone without ice skates on. And that leads me to:
Lesson Number 238: Ladies, perhaps you should consier not to wear high heels in a place that snows! Ok they look good, make you tall and match your outfit but hey...do you want to wear heels, look good for 5 seconds and spend the rest of the time trying not to slip over on the ice and then when you do slip over, crash land on your butt or into a pole with your handbag flying in the air, hitting the little old lady in the head that just walked past who was wearing warm woolly comfy flat snowboots. Who do you think is the wise and experienced? Grandmas are cool! :p I cannot count how many times I saw people fall over, but most girls with their heels on just hung on to their `boy` and hoped for the best. Thanks guys! Good for something... ;p
Stayed at a great hostel for 2 nights, an 8 girl dorm to myself (how lucky is that!) and greeted by snowfall in the morning, brilliant! While everyone rushed inside to warm cosy cafes and shops, I stayed outside to enjoy the snowfall. Apart from Jindabyne in Year 11 (I don`t remember it snowing?), I have not experienced actually being in a city while its snowing...cold cold 3 degrees...but a white Christmas, the white city illuminated and even a German Christmas festival with snags and potatoes and beer! Also rode a gondola up Mt. Moiwa to check out the freakin spectacular view of the city at night...a chilly minus 3 degrees up the top, but it was worth every shiver!
Onward to my final WWOOFING adventure, a natural lifestyle restaurant and activity centre in Niseko Hirafu, you might have heard of it coz it`s been heavily advertised in Aus...best softest most awesome powder snow, as soft as icing sugar and tastes pretty good too! The great ski fields have attracted truckloads of foreigners, especially Aussies, I think it was almost half Aussies and half Japanese/others, bloody Aussies in every country! ;p Even entrepreneurial Aussies have opened bars, restaurants and hostels there and built apartments too!
Oh yes so my new host parents were tops - hard working folks that run a massive property, growing vegies, and holding all kinds of classes such as making sausages and bacon, smoking all kinds of foods, making ice cream, cooking classes, making ski shoes, snow caves, rafting, fishing etc. It was a 70 year old military school, cold as all hell, but with the view of Mt Yotei at the front (looks like Mt Fuji) and the lights of the ski fields behind, it was so worth it! I stayed in an old classroom, helped in the kitchen, played waitress to all the foreigners who came for a traditional Japanese homestyle feed, and shovelled snow!
Lesson Number 1,088: Even though it is minus 5 degrees and heavily snowing and so cold that you could snap your fingers off, probably best not to wear all the clothes in your backpack, and beanie, and scarf, and gloves (and ski wear on top!) and then attempt to shovel snow. 1. You look like a big sumo wrestler and can`t really move very effectively. and 2. Snow shovelling is equivalent to going for a run on a warm summer`s day. ie. sweat!
It was actually really fun, not noticing that I had spent 4 hours making a driveway for the cars to get into the property (yes it was a BIG property and I had to make TWO driveways, I am not THAT slow!) And the snow was so soft and about half a metre deep! Freakin ace! They also had an awesome big dog, St Bernard, called Tomato that loved rolling in the snow and sticking his nose in the snow...lots of fun. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to make a snow angel, but Tomato definitely did, ok more like a snow sausage or something!
Lesson Number 1,685: If you go to the snow in Japan, you HAVE to go to a rotemburo (an outside onsen without a roof so that you are surrounded by snow and the snowfalls while you are in the onsen)...unbelievable, I cannot even describe how good it was on a cold winters day.
Also got a chance to go skiing, my host dad was a ski instructor, what luck! My extremely poor skiing skills (only skiied that one time in Jindabyne) tested on the intermediate course, spectacular view all around, fell down many many times...it`s not my fault I couldn`t turn! Too much fun!
Also made cushions for the restaurant (told you sewing machines follow me around!) and learnt to make lots of great dishes...the week topped off by my host dad waking up early on my last day to get on his boat to catch some fresh scallops for lunch!
I was so sad to leave, and my folks even offered me part time work there...to serve the loads of Aussies during winter...maybe Ro and Julse would not be so keen on that idea...:)
Back to Tokyo...my last leg in Japan...oyasumi...