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!


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



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.


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.


strawberry Kiri sticks

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



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!


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.


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:

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.


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.



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.


We had ours ordered online though and had it personalised by おたより 本舗 (email them at
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.


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??! 😍


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.


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.


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


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


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


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? 🙂

a game of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

Over the holidays, I saw in tv once a group of women in very traditional kimonos, faces painted in traditional Japanese makeup (very white faces with only a red dot for lips), all intent in playing a card game, all serious as they whisk a card one at a time. It was pretty interesting. Hence I was really thankful when, for our first class for the year earlier, our Nihongo sensei introduced the very same card game that I saw on tv – Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

The Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首) is a collection or anthology of tanka or poetry; hyaku for 100 and nin for persons thereby meaning to say that 100 poets contributed to the collection cum anthology, one poem per one person. It also refers to the card game uta-garuta (uta means song), a japanese traditional New Year game, which uses a deck composed of poems from one such anthology. Of all the Hyakunin Isshu, the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is the most popular and notable and it was this deck of cards that our sensei brought to our lunch break class.

The deck of cards are divided into two sets – one bearing the poems with the kanji of course and the other with purely hiragana text containing the two last 14 sounds/syllables/characters from the tank/poem.
The deck with the poems.


The rule of the game is that the game master is to recite the poem in singsong, monotonous rhythm. Supposedly, at the first few sounds/syllables, the player should be able to identify the song, look for the card bearing the last 14 characters of the tanka and whisk it away from your opponent as fast as you can. Hubs once represented his class for this game and he had to memorise all 100 poems!

But, well, since this was our first time, we had to listen to our sensei’s singsong voice and wait for the first few characters of the last 14 and look for the corresponding character on the cards splayed in front of us. It was a really enjoyable way to practice our hiragana. What was even more interesting is that the hiragana was the old version, with very curvy い and え and where を is used as お.
I would have loved to whisk away the cards when I get to identify them, but I was hesitant to show off haha. I didn’t fare bad though.


Why play this only during new year!? This would be great as well on any gathering/small parties.

Thank you sensei, for being very patient and creative in teaching us 🙂

Coming of age day

I’ve come to look forward to the Coming of Age day or what the Japanese call as Seijin no Hi (成人式) – that second Monday of January holiday wherein the young 20 year olds of Japan are celebrated and encouraged as they cross the threshold into adulthood. I look forward to it not because I can participate in the festivities but because it is such to sight to behold the streets of Japan teeming with young adults garbed in their best kimonos, kimonos so impressive in design you’d wonder how much it costs.

I was on my way to the office when I saw these young women whose pictures were being taken by their parents. I asked if they can indulge me to take their picture and they happily gave their consent.
Pretty aren’t they?


Look how elaborate their obis are.


Here’s one up close.


The men wear their kimono too but really it’s the women whom I look forward to see because of how elaborate their kimonos are. Makes one wish for a girl in the family. 🙂 🙂

my (first) seitai experience

I’m used to carrying my luggages in all my travels back when I was still single; heaving almost 40kg luggages down three flights of stairs. Having had lived alone in Manila, I was independent in that kind of thing. Having had the experience, I insisted yesterday morning that I carry my ~10kg luggage down the station stairs because I was really guilty that Atsushi carry my luggage as well since his luggage was already heavy.

I must have had the wrong bending or something in the two minutes that Atsushi allowed me to carry my luggage because come evening, my lower back sent a searing, racking pain that rendered me impossible to walk. With every movement comes a pain so incredible I was thinking my back must be breaking. 😦

I was thinking of the work that was waiting for me and how I need to finish some outputs before the HAZOP sessions so I was really looking forward to today’s first day at work. But shoganai, I have to be absent from work as I can’t walk straight, much less not utter a cry of pain with every step.

Come 6pm, 24 hours after the first shot of pain, I was able to walk myself to the seitai place (Japanese physical therapy place), albeit slowly and looking like a duck waddling.

Hubs who has to be in the office called the seitai place in advance and instructed them of my condition and history so by the time I showed up, they ushered me immediately to the therapy bed.

I was able to sleep comfortably last night thanks to the kairo or the heating pad. What the therapist did though was put an ice pack on my back. Four spots were treated to some sort of electric massage – he tested my hand before he put the pads on my back and when he turned on the current, I felt the shock of the electric current.

After ten minutes or so of the ice pack and the electric current pads (which was scary I tell you), the therapist then proceeded to massaging my lower back. He must have realised the pain I was in while he was massaging my lower back in that his face showed the concern. And with the little Japanese I know, I understood what he said to the other therapist who put the ice pack on me – that I was in an intense pain. He tenderly told me “yukuri” or slowly, as he instructed me to change positions in the therapy bed. As he was prepping my back for the therapeutic massage, the preps massage reminded me of the massages mama used to give me when I was little. With the tears of pain, along came the tears of missing mama.

After the massage, they taped something on my back to help reduce the pain. And then they put this on me which I’ll be wearing for the next 3 days at least.


Yep, that’s my tummy in there.

I was planning to work overtime tomorrow to make up for the work I missed today. But apparently I can’t since I have to go back to seitai for follow up therapy.

Being only 31, having
this kind of discomfort certainly is embarrassing.

Anyways, take care of your body guys. Remember, health is wealth. 🙂
One of my bosses/colleague commented in Facebook that I may have what in Japanese is known as gikkuri goshi. I researched a bit about this and found that you could have this either by lifting heavy things, lack of exercise, and had kept your body cold. I was guilty of all three things: lifted something heavy, NO exercise, and that it’s been days since I immersed my body in the bath tub and that we travelled the whole night – on a wintry night – in a bus.
On top of loosing weight, there’s another reason alright to enrol in a hot yoga class.
I said I walk like a duck waddling. Hubs said I walk like a penguin. Well, at least a penguin’s cuter. 😛

Oh. One thing to be thankful for. Despite being bedridden, it has been a productive day indeed. 🙂 🙂

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