Osaka Haul 2018!

As promised, here is my Japan/Osaka haul (please read my previous blog post about the trip to offer some insight on my purchases!) Whenever I travel, a handful of people ask me what to buy/what I bought/what to expect in Japan—to have an idea of what type of person I am (or what things I usually buy), here is my haul:

Music:

I dropped by Tower Records and knew immediately what I’m looking for—to my delight, I was able to find them! I grabbed a copy of Panic! at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor (I’ve been looking for a physical copy for a looong time; I love this album so much) and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (I am a total theatre nerd and I am proud Hamitrash—I think I’ve memorized at least more than half the songs so far? Hehehe.) Great finds + great buys!

Stationery/Art Supplies:

Next up, I bought these sticker organizers. I really had this one my ‘to-buy’ list and luckily didn’t have too much of a hard time finding them.

The lavender one is for sticker flakes—

…while the red one is for vertical sticker sheets!

I also bought a pack of 8 Posca paint markers (because I’ve been wanting to try them out for the longest time) and a roll of masking tape (I’m not sure if this is specialized for watercolor paper, but I’m excited to test it out!)

Next would be the washi tapes (oh, boy!)

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Osaka 2018!

A few days ago, my family and I got back from Osaka, Japan. We stayed there from June 7 to 11, 2018—too short of a stay, if you’d ask me! Hehe. For this trip, I booked EVA Air (a 4AM-12nn flight, with a layover at Taipei for two hours) and excitedly counted the days ’till the big trip; I was especially excited for this trip because it would be my little sister’s first time in Japan!

Day 1

Airplane food.

Sunrise up in the sky!

Fast forward to noon, we finally arrived in Osaka! I quickly claimed our Nankai Line Airport Express tickets and our Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan E-tickets as well from the HIS counter at the airport. (I booked both of these, amongst others, through Klook.com!)

We rode to Namba in comfortable peace and enjoyed the sights. Forty-five minutes later, we got to our destination.

The train looks so cool + futuristic, hehe.

Would recommend riding the rapi:t train (you can purchase roundtrip tickets!) If you book it online or buy the tickets there, you can get reserved seating. We made our way to our hotel, Ibis Styles Osaka, dropped our things off, and headed for Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan!

If you squint, you could see my dad, my mom, and my sister photobombing my photo. Huhu.

The aquarium was just gorgeous. I would totally go back just to spend a lazy afternoon staring at the majestic creatures behind the glass. Just look at these photos (although, the photos don’t do enough justice for the actual thing!):

Why, hello there!

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Hokkaido 2017 (Part 1)!

This post is long-delayed, I admit, but it’s finally here! Yey!
The reason it took so long was the photos! I have a LOT of photos to share, so I’ll be splitting this blog post into two! 🙂

A few months ago, I went to Hokkaido with my family for a few days (August 31 – September 5, 2017). While I’ve been to Hokkaido in the past (Kushiro, to be specific), this would be my first time in Sapporo. I was in charge of the itinerary again and this is what we did:

Day 1: August 31, 2017

Our flight to Sapporo took a grand total of nine travel hours (including the layover)! We departed from Manila at 9 in the morning –

landing at Narita Airport by 3:00PM –

then flew off for Sapporo by 6PM and finally arriving at 8PM!

Phew! We rode the train to Sapporo Station and walked to our hotel, Hotel MyStays Sapporo Aspen, from there. We had takeaway dinner from the nearby Coco Ichibanya and headed to bed for another early start the next day.

Day 2: September 1

Waking up bright and early, we headed for Otaru.Otaru Station! It was such a beautiful day.

Otaru is so gorgeous and we were lucky to go on such a good day!

Just look at these flowers!

We arrived a little too early (I guess I was just too excited, woops) and most of the shops were still closed, so we walked around and took our time enjoying all the sights!

I love all the architecture and history of all the buildings here.

Coming to Otaru, I had a few things I knew I wanted to see and do (not to mention, eat hehe) – which I’ll get to in a bit.  Walking around, we encountered a small market that sold souvenirs, fresh Hokkaido sweet corn and melon, and dried seafood.

Sweet Hokkaido melons selling at ¥500 per slice! Expensive, but worth a taste. It’s so good.

Since all the stores were still closed, we headed for the Otaru Canal next.

There was an elderly man painting the canal and there were various artists selling postcards and their paintings of the canal on the side. I couldn’t resist and bought a postcard for myself.

Continue reading “Hokkaido 2017 (Part 1)!”

A Thousand Words

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. While I might be a better writer than I am a photographer, I agree with this statement. If you’ve been following my blog (or even if you’re a new reader), you’ll notice that I love including photos in all my posts – I think it helps tell my story the way I want it to be told through photographs. I sometimes let the photos do the talking to get my point across or for appreciation’s sake.

In participation with the #VantagePoint project, I want to share with you some of my favorites photographs. (The #VantagePoint project is by a startup company called light.co and they sell these really awesome compact cameras, which is unfortunately sold out (for now). As part of their marketing campaign, they shared the #VantagePoint project with me, which is basically me sharing a photo of my favorite location and the story behind it – which is what I love doing anyways.)

Since I took so many photos over the year, I thought that I’d showcase my top three photos from my travels.
(Disclaimer: please note that these are the top three best photos not because of aesthetic’s sake, but because of the memory that goes with it.)

1. El Nido, Palawan (Philippines)

This place took my breath away when I was physically there. Without a word, I made my way to the front of the boat and bravely took my phone out (despite my fear of it falling down the boat). I made sure the lighting was just perfect and waited for the moment to capture it. I assessed the positioning and symmetry with the grids. I made sure that there were different kinds of action happening everywhere that would make people want to look at this photo again and again. This was the highlight of my trip.

2. The National Museum, Manila (Philippines)

It was Independence Day when I took this photo and I went to the National Museum (one of my favorite places in Manila) to celebrate. When I left the museum, it was really windy and I looked up to see several flags proudly displayed out in front. It was really sunny as well, so I squinted, aimed my camera at the highest flag, aligned it to my grid, and shot. I waited for the right moment so that all the flag would show it’s entirety. I loved how the blueness of the sky made the colors of the flag pop out! I think this photo shows peace and nationality together.

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Sophie Makes: MUJI Naan (+ Curry)

During my not-so-recent trip to Tokyo, Japan last April, I bought a couple of things from MUJI. I got the usual stationary and some other little travel essentials. In Japan, though, I get the most excited about the MUJI food that they sell since most of what they’re offering is not available back at home. I was so happy to find a pack of handmade ready-to-make naan and couldn’t wait to try it out.

And so, I finally had some time yesterday to make them:

The instructions were unfortunately in Japanese so I tried my best to (“read”) translate and research on what to do. Luckily, I found this video of someone making it and tried my best to follow.

MUJI Handmade Naan (Serves 4) – 200g

First, I placed all the naan mix in a medium-sized bowl and poured in 100ml of water:

Then, I placed a teaspoon of olive oil:

I combined everything well, kneaded the dough for a few minutes, and covered it to let it rise (as shown in the video).

[Note: Nothing happened in the ten minutes I covered it to “let it rise”, so you can go ahead and skip to the next step.]

While I was waiting for my dough to “rise”, I heated up the MUJI Creamy Butter Chicken Curry.

After ten minutes, I took out the dough from the bowl, cut them into four pieces, and proceeded to flatten them with a rolling pin. I grated some queso de bola (“ball cheese” or edam cheese, in English) and stuffed them in.

While I was rolling out and filling the dough, I placed a medium-sized non-stick pan over medium heat (read that again, slowly) and drizzled some olive oil on the pan.

Once the pan was hot enough, I placed two of the naan bread on it and covered the pan (to trap the heat in).

I let it cook for around 3 – 5 minutes on each side (or until they turn golden brown).

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Japan 2k17!

A bit of a delayed post since I’ve been having trouble uploading all the pictures, but here it finally is! 🙂

After 8 months, I’m extremely lucky enough to go back to Tokyo, Japan! I was in charge of creating the itinerary and planning other details alongside my aunt – which was a really exciting and awesome responsibility!I was looking forward to this trip for several months – it’s what kept me going in school (“suffer now, enjoy later”) as I spent fewer hours sleeping and more hours into school work. Like my previous travel/ Japan posts (click here to read one), I’ll break down my trip per day. For this trip, I went with my grandmother and my two aunts!

Day 1: April 11

Our flight to Tokyo, Japan leaves at 9AM, so my family and I were at the airport by 5:30AM. After dropping our bags off, we headed for the airport lounge for a light breakfast (since they’ll also be serving brunch on the plane later on) as we waited for our boarding time.

Breakfast with a view!

I was itching to leave since at this time of the year, it’s really hot here in the Philippines and I’m missing the cool air of Spring. Fast forward to four hours, we finally landed!

(It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon. ANA’s windows are really cool – they can turn into different shades of blue depending on the time and the user.)

I was immediately hit with nostalgia when I saw all the Japanese characters all around and when I heard “arigatou gozaimasu” from the usual “thank you” and “salamat” I hear at home. I was grinning from ear to ear as we made our way to the Narita Express to catch a train to Shibuya.

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Japan 2k16 Photobook

I know, I know.

I haven’t updated my Japan 2016 blog in a LONG time – but bear with me. I’m writing it slowly, and you should expect a post probably next week (if school work doesn’t drown me). In the meantime – I’m very excited to announce that for the past few months, I’ve been working on a secret project. I was looking through the past photos of my Japan trip when I was suddenly struck with inspiration – why don’t I make a photo album? 

So that’s what I did – I combined my photography, my brush lettering, and my photo editing skills together in one huge project.

It was a difficult process to choose only a hundred photos for the entire album – I distributed it to 20 photos a month (excluding the collages, it counts as “1 photo”) – but after much deliberation, I finally completed it. I arranged the photos in the order that it happened. If some photos don’t make much sense, it’s because it’s probably an inside joke or story. Maybe if I have the time, I’ll write about it in my future blog posts!

Without further adieu, here it is! The product of several sleepless nights, blood, sweat, and tears:

Update: I actually had this printed in hard copy via fotogra.ph! I highly recommend this company because the prices are really good, the service is speedy, and the outcome is perfect. Would definitely order again in the future!

[2018 Update: I don’t think I’d be able to ever complete the 2016 weekly Japan blog posts at this point 😭 It’s been too far gone, and I’m  trying to move forward and focus on things that are coming instead. I hope that you’ll understand! I kept the majority of my day-to-day life during my exchange program in a journal and I think that’s enough for me.]

Sophie Bakes: Chocolate Chip Melon Pan

[Maybe a more fitting title would be Sophie TRIES to Bake Again: Chocolate Chip Melon Pan]

A few weeks ago, I discovered this channel on YouTube called Peaceful Cuisine which is basically a cooking and baking channel dedicated to fill your eyes and ears with quiet cooking (I find it incredibly relaxing) – but not your stomach, unfortunately. There was this one video that captured my attention: Chocolate Chip Melon Pan. Melon pans, in general, are really good. [A melon pan is basically a sweet bread with crisp cookie dough on top.] I always buy one whenever I go to a Japanese bakeshop here in the Philippines and I make it a point to eat one whenever I visit the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods.

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Just look at it!

I absolutely love Japanese food so when I saw “Melon Pan” I immediately clicked on the video – and the fact that it had chocolate chips? I knew that I had to eat it. I’m sure that everyone has this thing they do wherein they watch people cook or bake online, drool at the thought the final product, but end up never really making it for themselves because of laziness or other excuses? Well, I’m usually like that, but for some strange reason I wanted to make Chocolate Chip Melon Pans. I grabbed some paper and wrote down all the ingredients I had to buy.

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Japan 2k16 – Week 11 (June 13 – June 19)

According to my planner, June 13 – 19 was Palindrome Week! Thanks to my incredible memory, I had to research on what a palindrome is again.

“A palindrome is a word, phrase, number, or other sequences of characters which reads the same backward or forward. Allowances may be made for adjustments to capital letters, punctuation, and word dividers.” (Reference)

or

a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward, as Madam, I’m Adam or Poor Dan is in a droop.” (Reference)

Anyways – back to the blog!

Day 1: June 13

Today, my mom and brother will be flying back to the Philippines – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see them anymore because I had classes. It was raining really hard today, so I felt really lazy to go home (I just wanted to stay under a roof and eat something warm). Thankfully, I only had one class today.

Winona (she’s dismissed the same time I am usually) and I were literally in front of the train when we decided – right then and there – to go to Sweets Paradise; for two reasons – one, we were hungry and it was lunchtime, and two – Sweets Paradise in Shinjuku had an Osomatsusan (おそ松さん) collaboration. Naturally, we had to go.

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If you’re not familiar with Sweets Paradise, it’s basically a buffet where they have a huge range of sweets up for eats! Aside from sweets, they also have salad, curry, pizza, and pasta – and of course, drinks. You can check out their menu and the prices here.

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Continue reading “Japan 2k16 – Week 11 (June 13 – June 19)”

Japan 2k16 – Week 10 (June 6 – June 12)

The Japan blog continues! 🙂

Day 1: June 6

After a fun (but tiring) weekend, we embrace the start of the week with a test (boo). Luckily, according to the flowchart and exam schedule, this week would be pretty chill – so we went out a lot.

Day 2: June 7

Today, the only thing due in school were some paperwork for one of my classes – so yey! I went back to the dorm right after to sleep and clean my room.

Day 3: June 8

Winona, Pam, and I planned on going to Ueno Zoo – but due to time restraints, we changed our plans instead and went on a mini-food trip, haha! It was around lunch time when we headed to Tokyo station after our classes. Tokyo Station is an interesting place to stop by when you’re in Tokyo – since the station is filled with shops (you don’t even have to get out of the station)! We decided to hit Ramen Street first to eat the best ramen there. After some research and debate, we lined up at Rokurinsha (六厘舎) – which is known to have the longest lines (you can check out their menu here – it’s in Japanese though, so use Google translate). Luckily, we arrived before the lunch crowd, so we only had to wait approximately 30 minutes. The store is relatively small, so it only seats about twenty people.

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This ramen shop is known for its tsukemen (つけめん) noodle dish (it’s a type of Japanese noodle dish in which you dip the noodles in a bowl of very thick soup first, then you eat it). To learn more about the difference between tsukemen and ramen, you can read about it here.

We all ordered the original tsukemen dish – which cost us just ¥850! The dish arrived really quickly, and before you know it, we were stuffing our faces with one of the best noodle dishes I’ve ever eaten. This is the first time I’ve eaten tsukemen, and I’m happy to know that the dish lived up to the hype.

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We were really full – the fullest we’ve ever felt, and that’s saying a lot; BUT the food trip must continue.

Continue reading “Japan 2k16 – Week 10 (June 6 – June 12)”