songs from the heart

It was so hard for me to sing “Make Me Whole” before. I’d sing a few lines and my voice would crack, tears would then well up on my eyes as I think of Hubs. That was how dear the song was for me, for us. Thankfully, I was able to sing the song during our wedding, without messing things up.

I hope soon I can sing this too, just as beautifully, without cracks showing up in my voice as tears well up.

udon and kitty chan

Look who’s swimming in AND eating udon!

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My thumb is bigger than kitty chan but look at the detail on her udon bowl!

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HAZOP

It really took me by surprise when I saw my calendar and realized that it’s only Tuesday. What?!! Been very busy and occupied lately it felt like it’s Thursday already. At work, I was very occupied at work preparing for the HAZOP – that meeting of “experts”, to quote our Chairperson. I’m still far from being one and I really still have tons to learn but hey, we all start from somewhere, right? Hopefully, tomorrow’s the last day for my scope of work. Well, except for another HAZOP that would be due in a month probably. And just like any normal HAZOP teams, ours was a United Nations of some sort as well – Australian, British, Indian, Japanese, Latino, American, Filipino (previously there was a French guy) in one team. I’d like to say as well that our team is star-studded. We have Liam Neeson, Rupert Grint, Adam Sandler, Kevin Bacon, Tamaki Hiroshi and Steve Martin-look alikes. Now that’s rare in one HAZOP team. No matter how “star-studded” it is though, I hope it’ll be over soon. Smoothly. Please. Being on the defensive while the rest of the ten experts on the team are on the offensive can be quite tough you know!

In the home front, we’ve also been occupied with something pretty exciting in that our laundry has been piling up! Miss at least 4 days of laundry in Winter and you’re sure to have difficulty catching up with the laundry.

Anyways, was just dropping by! 🙂

soybeans galore

I wouldn’t have believed it possible but i lately find natto appetising. Natto, that sticky, a bit stinky, superfood that has been a staple in Japanese breakfast.

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Check this out for the health benefits of natto. And this one as well! (for pregnant women). Or, just type in natto in google search and you’re bound to see lots of references to its healthy goodness.

We love this soybean milk, tōnyu as well! Tried the cocoa and strawberry variants and I just love them.

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strawberry Kiri sticks

Our latest craze – the strawberry cream cheese variant of Kiri.

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Read that as early as the 1970s in France (yes, this originally hailed from France), Kiri has been a favourite of the “epicureans in shorts”. And I’d say, us adults have it as a favourite as well!

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on Daruma dolls and wishes

One of my officemates hail from Takasaki, Gunma. As omiyage to us after the holidays, he gave each of us a daruma doll.

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Representing a famous Zen monk, the daruma doll is a good luck charm usually bought during new year. This tradition of having the daruma doll as good luck charm was started at the Shorinzan Daruma Temple (少林山達磨寺, Shōrinzan Darumaji) in Takasaki several centuries back and has since spread across temples of Japan. (info source: http://www.japan-guide.com)

The daruma is usually bought without the pupils on. You make a wish and paint in a pupil. When your wish comes true, you can then paint on the other pupil. And so our daruma now sits atop Tofu. Pupil painted on by hubs.

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At the end of the year, the daruma dolls are returned to the temples to be burned. Hope that when we return ours at the end of the year it already has two pupils on.

The nengajō aka Japanese new year card

It’s already the middle of January (how time flies!) and I still have a number of posts in line that is related to the Japanese New Year festivities or more known here as Shōgatsu (正月). The Japanese culture is just so rich with detail and flair!

So, the nengajō (年賀状). At a time when a lot of us are busy darting to and fro looking for the perfect gifts and cards for Christmas, the Japanese are busy as well with the preparations in sending the nengajō or the Japanese post cards which will be sent on January 1 granting you didn’t miss the deadline. So one can just imagine how busy the Japan Post is at this time of the year. It was amazing to see Japan Post employees standing at the side of the road with bags in hand so that motorists can drop their nengajō on the bag without parking or stopping over at the post office. Talk about efficient.

Some people, probably those who are in the arts and crafts, make their own nengajō. For the likes of me though, thankfully, stationers sell preprinted cards. Even convenience stores sell nengajō!
At Family Mart.

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People are selling preprinted cards everywhere in that one can even order for the cards in front of a train station.
At JR Sakuragicho station.

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We had ours ordered online though and had it personalised by おたより 本舗 (email them at ot@arts-net.co.jp).
Decided it best to have one of our wedding photos on our nengajō this year since the wedding was a great milestone for us for the year.

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So yes, aside from well wishes for the new year, the nengajō is also a venue for people to share their milestones for the year by sharing photos. Hence it’s usual to see wedding photos, photos of their kids and babies, and photos of the sender from one of his/her travels.
Aren’t these kids just cute??! 😍

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People also take advantage of the nengajō to update their friends for any change of address or phone number.

If there has been a death or mourning in the family though, people send the mochuo (喪中), a card informing their friends to not send them the nengajō as respect to the grieving family/friend of the departed. We got three mochuo last December; the mochuo is usually sent weeks ahead of the nengajō.

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Aside from the messages, photos and address/phone numbers, the nengajō is also sometimes decorated with famous cartoon characters alongside with the Chinese zodiac for the year. As this year is the year of the dragon, we got nengajō with cute dragon drawings.

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For those which had the front of their nengajō full with photos, like ours, the stamp has some dragon drawing in it.

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This was Atsushi’s stamp back in 2007 during the year of the pig.

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And this was his front photo back then, a photo of him taken at Langtang Valley in the Himalaya.

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The stamps aren’t just there for design though as they really serve as postal stamps. After writing down personal messages and written down the addresses of the recipients, one can immediately drop it at any postal box without paying anything since the stamp cost is already included in the price of the nengajō. It stands to reason though that only those accredited by the post office can sell nengajō.

Pretty interesting isn’t it? 🙂

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