Friday, December 07, 2012

asics origami

We have just completed almost 2 weeks of workshops for the Japan project. I was not an active participant, but managed to learn quite a bit about the creative and technical bits of the project.

As I'm naturally piqued by interesting visuals, the first week of creative discussion was naturally more engaging than the 2nd week of technical sessions. One of the videos they shared was an origami depiction of the history of ASICS and Onitsuka Tiger.

It's the first time I get to work in a consumer products company. My previous experiences dealt with mostly the intangible, so it's a bit difficult to quantify the result of work produced.

So it's been really exciting to learn the deep history and value that goes into producing each pair of sports shoe, apparel and equipment. Even with that, it still remains a humble Japanese company. There may not be much luxuries usually associated with large corporations, which is perhaps why the people here are also more down to earth.

I may not have enough space for myself, nor fancy stationery and gadgets, whatmore enough heating in winter. But I get to experience some of the best sporting products ever. Maybe that should motivate me to get back to some form of fitness!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

home sweet home

The 2nd batch of my furniture finally arrived early last month! I'm not sure about other countries, but here in Japan, the Ikea delivery and setting up services are outsourced separately. I need to make 2 appointments to have them delivered, and to get the furniture built up. To ensure I don't have stacks of heavy boxes cluttering my appointment unnecessarily, we had to get those 2 dates as close as possible.

I would love to do a bit DIY, but when Yuri and I tried with the bed, we realised it was too heavy for 2 petite grrls, and we didn't have the right tools between the both of us! In the end 2 colleagues from HR came to help. They took almost 2 hours+, but I was quite impressed with the end result.

So one Saturday in October, I was awaken by the delivery guys with 5 boxes. The next morning, I was awaken by 2 people carrying tools and some padded cardboards to set up the furniture. They were really efficient - after a quick assessment, they set up their equipment and started work immediately. Mostly quiet, they referred very little to the manuals.

My initial plan was to make breakfast while they did the furniture. But I was so engrossed in their slick operation that I just sat in bed (because everywhere else were boxes and furniture!) and watched them do their work. The lady proceeded to do the study table near the balcony, while the guy set up the swivel chair.

Later, he proceeded to built the chest while she continued making the shelves for the table. All these were done on the cardboard, while they shoved the paper and corrugated cardboard into plastic bags. Once in awhile when they were using the electric drill, I would cringe because it was 830 on a Sunday morning and I was quite sure my neighbours would be cursing me for waking them up!

I was glad I didn't order more furniture, the whole place looked neatly messy with just these few pieces already. I still need some table for eating, and a TV rack because now it's on the floor together with the modem and wifi router.

I was really looking forward to these important furniture as I have been doing everything on the floor - reading, writing, using the PC, eating. It was taking a toll on my neck and back. Also, they were gathering dust without proper storage.

Finally the chest, study table and chair were done. I went with a black and white theme to suit the bed actually. Oh, have I shared pics of that yet?! Well, personally I would have gone for something woody or neutral. I guess I just have to be more diligent in keeping it white!

The last piece to be built was the sofa bed. It took me a long time to choose this because I was not sure if it would take up too much space in my tiny apartment. I had to go back and forth between a day bed, proper bed, sofa bed, mattress, futon, and multiple combinations of the above with sketches in my head. All keeping in mind the overall theme, budget, manageability and arrangement between the different pieces.

I have never been to Ikea so many times in such a short time in my life before! All because Ikea is just the next station, and I can walk there after work. I sorta have the store layout memorised now.

It's been quite fun actually. This is the first time I get to have my own place, decide on how it would look like with various shapes and colours. I can only imagine how much more tedious it would be with a house!

But it's almost there. I can now invite friends over and have a cuppa. It's always nice to have something that has much thought put into it, something that I can come home to and feel, well, at home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

low ldl?

I was scheduled to go for the mandatory health check when I first joined the company. But with all the work and travel, only managed to do it few weeks back.

Was expecting a traditional hospital with whitewash walls in stark lighting. To my surprise (didn't manage to take pics!), it was more like a private hospital with very comfortable ambience - carpet floors, dim lighting and dark wood furnishings. The health screening centre felt so cozy I wish my apartment was like that too!

I was quite happy with the health checkup I signed up for in MJ Life, as they automate and digitalise the screenings, making it almost a breeze to do your screening. However, the Kobe Kenshin Clinic tops it up a notch.

My x-ray was over in seconds, no need to wear the protective vest and don't even need to close the door, just a curtain. The measurement for height and weight had automatic sensors that no manual intervention is needed. For blood pressure measurement, I just had to slip my hand through a tunnel-like device, and the protective covering will expand to squeeze around the arm to get the right reading.

They even have blankets and shawls placed around the clinic available for anyone to use. For some reason, I noticed there were only ladies on that day, so I thought that was a nice gesture to ensure privacy.

I just got my blood and urine results back through mail. Other than the slightly low LDL figure, everything else seems normal. Guess it is consistent with the doctor's analysis that day - I'm a healthy individual! Well, of course this is quite a basic health checkup, I still have to maintain my eating habits and keep a balanced lifestyle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

japan indeed p2

Continuing on my wanderings around town, I saw this toilet deodorant seal which comes in various patterns. Thought the butterfly was cute, but a bit strange to paste stickers on the toilet.

Still, I guess for a country that has almost everything, they have the creativity to come up with such items that are not really necessity, but added to make life more comfortable and liveable. Just like the toilet seat warmer!

I noticed this time around there were not many seasonal Kit Kats, so I was quite delighted to find a Halloween-themed Kit Kat. Personally, I'm not into the festivities, and it can be quite a big thing over here in Japan, but I'm into collecting Kit Kat experiences.

Apparently this follows the theme of costume or, pretending to be another character, which is part of the Halloween festivities. The filling is pumpkin pudding flavoured, while the outer coating is supposed to be white chocolate but, "pretending" to be the "devil", it is dark chocolate instead.

Now not only do we have various fluffy bath mat that comes in microfibre materials that dry quickly, there is now those that imitates animal fur. Deer, lion and sheep are just some of the texture that can be enjoyed when you purchase these bath mats.

Guess it's better than getting real fur just to have it stomped by your feet on the floor!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

of hot buns in the rain

On Sunday I had brought a long a gift for Yuko-san, as a little token of gratitude. She was the one who loaned me her sister's rice cooker and welcomed me to KBF.

This was one of the first few dishes I cooked after getting the rice cooker. It felt really good to be able to have home cooked food, nevermind that it was a simple one. This was supposed to be for lunch but looked more like breakfast food!

It was a windy and rainy evening as I walked from the station to church. On the way there, near the station there are a few restaurants and cafes, some selling food to take away. As I was focussing on not catching a cold, I was careful to cover myself from the wind.

Just at the corner of my eye, I noticed an old woman huddled at a bench just in front of a shop selling hot buns. She was covered in plastic, and beside her was a small bicycle with cans and bottles, presumably for recycling.

I was so tempted to give her the gift which was meant for Yuko-san. A part of me wondered how much that hot bun cost her, not knowing how much money she made selling cans and bottles. Another part of me figured perhaps I could get a replacement gift the next week. After all, Yuko-san would not notice. The other part of me thought, the gift is wrapped in many layers of Japanese wrappings, this old lady would have problem opening it. Another said, why bother, it might be too lavish for her to appreciate. Yet the other, but if you're genuine, you wouldn't make all these excuse not to show some kindness.

While I had these conversations in my head, the light had turned green, and I hurried away with the crowd in the rain. I couldn't help but look back and felt a tinge of guilt. I could have bought her a few more hot buns, and wouldn't lose Yuko's gift. Maybe that's a more practical solution.

Even though there are no beggars in Japan, and the government do try to take care of its citizens (sometimes at its own debt), it reminded me that not everyone in Japan is well off. All quite ironic when that area is frequented by young people and adults in fashionable clothes and seemingly large disposable income.

When I reached KBF, Yuko-san was at the entrance greeting everyone as usual. Still standing in the rain, I handed her the gift. After a short exchange of, no you shouldn't have, but it's okay I just wanted to appreciate your warmth, she thanked me, saying perhaps it's God's timing that the gift came, for her birthday was just a couple of days away.

Just before then, I decided, if I were to see that old woman again, I'd buy her the hot buns.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

cycling back the heater

I haven't realised how tiny my bicycle looked until I parked it next to the scooter. I know it's small enough to be folded, and anyone bigger than me might have a bit of problem cycling it, but I couldn't help laughing when I saw this after my Japanese class.

I have just started lessons at the Kobe YMCA, and last weekend when I had caught a cold, pushed myself to cycle up the slope to the Kitano area. Needless to say, I almost collapsed when I reached the language centre. I had to psyche myself to keep going, and good thing about Japanese vending machines they are everywhere. A bottle of isotonic drink helped me reach the class.

It's now officially autumn and the weather is brilliant. Sunny but crisp, it's the kind of weather that you'd want to spend daytime outdoors. I wish we didn't have to spend most of that time in the office working! But oh well, we need to pay the bills.

However, it was quite a drop in weather from mostly 30 degrees until September, and just 1 month later we're averaging 15 degrees. Even though I had caught a cold, I didn't want to waste such a good weather being indoors (quite silly sometimes!). After all, it will only get colder after this.

So I decided to bring my tiny bicycle for a stroll in the hilly Kitano area. This is where most of the foreigners lived and made their home when Kobe opened its port to the world, along with other ports in Japan. There are many remnants of Western style buildings here, and this is also a major tourist spot.

I've been here a few times every summer while I was studying but never enjoyed the humidity. It's nice to be able to explore the other side of the city and not have to rush through. Was quite surprised to find a mosque here, and also a mini grocery opposite it selling Asian food stuff. Another option for more choices.

I remember taking this kind of shot when I first arrived in Japan. I'm rather fascinated by the colours of flowers in foreign lands. Then I realised, maybe I should try to do a bit of gardening and put some colour in my balcony.

This was taken outside someone's residence. Was almost tempted to sit at the steps to take a breather and enjoy the tree above, but didn't want to raise suspicion!

As I went further away from Kitano, it became a little more residential. Well,  I had made an appointment to drop by this couple's place to survey their Sayonara Sale. I remember when the economic recession hit Japan back in 2008, there were many foreigners leaving the country and selling/giving away their furniture and things.

This time, it was not that easy to find Sayonara Sale ad, but I was really happy to find it on the Kansai Classifieds section. Since I came with a bike, there was not much that I could carry with me. So I bought what I went there for - this ceramic heater.

Well then, bike or no bike, it doesn't make a difference. I still had to carry it by hand. So they helped to make some makeshift handle for me. So I had to walk back to my apartment, one hand carrying this heater, the other hand trying to steer the bike.

It took me one hour with many stops along the way because the tape is not the best handle! But still, I'm really happy now I have my own heater. Also, it was really nice weather so it was quite a good workout.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

kamakura pasta

I've been walking through the underground shopping street whenever I feel like hiding from the cold (or heat in summer). There's this restaurant called Kamakura Pasta which serves somewhat fusion Japanese food.

Even though I have to guess half of what the menu says, my adventurous side have helped tamper any surprises. So far I'm still alive! Also, they serve really creative appetizers, pizza and pasta being their specialty. Kamakura-style apparently.

Like this starters, which I remember understanding the words for cream cheese and ham. I had imagined something else in mind so was a little surprised to get this. I thought I had ordered wrongly, or maybe the waitress mistook my order for something else on the menu. I need to brush up on my Japanese.

But actually, the cream cheese is right there, mixed with peas wrapped by the thin slice of ham, laid on a bed of crushed walnut and served with salad.

They also have this thin crust pizza which has an oblong shape and about the size of a long envelope. It has such a cute little shape that they serve it with a pair of scissors so you can cut it into suitable sizes.

I've tried various toppings such as cheese, mushroom and eggplants. But I definitely have not tried fresh salad topping before! Yes, I feel very healthy being here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

japan indeed

Even though I've lived in Japan before, there are still many things that continue to amuse me, be it by their design or culture or just plain quirks.

I have been looking for curtains for some time. What I like is they have this special coating that blocks out sun and bright lights, and minimise sounds from outside. It's a little expensive, but it's so effective that when I was living in the temp apartment, I had problems waking up!

Here is an interesting curtain design for those who are young at heart. This was a design done by a Japanese designer collaborating with Disney. This would have matched my room theme, if not for the price!

Continuing on my food hunt, I decided to try this special edition of Häagen-Dazs. The tropical cream cheese was probably a summer flavour as I now see a few other new ones on supermarket shelves. Really creamy with the right tinge of tangy flavour and soft creamy goodness.

Just blogging about me makes me want to eat some ice-cream right now. Yes, even though it's getting a little late and chilly right now.

After waiting for almost 3 weeks, I finally had internet installed at home. The box with the modem and wireless router arrived first, then the internet guy himself at the appointed day and time. I thought this was quite interesting, as in Malaysia, when we setup Unifi at home, a team of tech guys came with lots of boxes in a van.

What was most fascinating was the fact that he brought his own bedroom slippers (so that he wouldn't dirty the floor even in his socks!), and a little carpet (to protect my floor, and probably the equipment) when setting up the internet. He did everything on the carpet, and once done, carefully transferred equipment and cables to where I wanted it to be. How professional! The Unifi team at home left behind a trail of dust and lots of boxes for us to clean up after.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

ceramics for crockery

I had made friends with this Indonesian lady at KBF few weeks back, who warmly welcomed me. When she found out I was new and had just moved to my own place, asked if I needed anything.

Little did I know that when I casually told her I was looking for some crockery, she would introduce me to her Japanese friend who attends ceramic classes. All these while I've been collecting plastic containers from take out food, and recycling them.

Initially I hardly cooked as I was taking my time looking for suitable kitchen utensils and cutleries. Of course using plastic containers to eat isn't very presentable, but I try to make do with what I have.

I didn't expect much when Ida introduced me to her friends Kyo-san and Tak-san, who could have passed off as an elderly couple. Both are actually siblings, and have divorced their spouses respectively, so decided to live together to save costs. They live in the suburbs so they have quite a nice place with lots of plants in the balcony.

I was really surprised that Kyo had laid out all these crockeries on the table, and asked us to choose whatever we liked! It's like being given a trolley in the supermarket and going on a shopping spree. I was a bit shy at first as I didn't know her at first, and was not sure if I should even take any.

While we looked at the plates, she served us some green tea and mochi. It was a pleasant afternoon snack. As we started talking, I found out that she had been making lots of ceramic from her classes. Since she already had so many, she didn't mind giving them away. I tried to offer to pay, but she said her plates were not that expensive.

I'm hoping to return the favour soon. My cup overflows.

I really liked these nature-inspired pieces. I've been quite intrigued with Japanese pottery since my Tokyo days when I was involved in an e-commerce site selling Japanese traditional gifts. The fact that they do not look perfect is what makes them unique.

The ones I took have flower prints and seemed to be from the same set. There were some others, but didn't have enough pieces to form a proper set like this.

I was so happy with the treat that I didn't mind they were so heavy as I walked back to the station with 2 paper bags of these. Then I realised, I might not even have a proper table to use all these if I wanted to! Maybe I could use the large flat bowl as a flower pot instead >.<

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

kobe bible fellowship

I have been attending the Kobe Bible Fellowship (KBF) for some weeks now since arriving in Kobe. There are not many English/Japanese churches in Kobe, whatmore in Japan, so my Google search returned very few results.

The Kobe Union Church was tops in the result, probably due to better SEO, and I've visited the Union Church of Manila while on assignment in Makati. I figured they must be similar in that they are inter-denomination. 

Also in the results page was KBF, which I found to be nearer to where I was living. Kobe Union Church is nearer to Rokko mountain, and was a bit harder to access though they provide shuttle service from the nearest station. While on one of my exploring rounds, I stumbled upon a brick building that looked like a church near Tor Road.

Being sceptical since there were a lot of church-looking buildings that were merely wedding chapels for Japanese who seek Western-style weddings, I was of course surprise to find that it was a real church! 

I decided to visit the next Sunday and found the church similar to GAP in Tokyo. Quite big for a Japanese church, it had Japanese and Chinese services in the morning, and an English in the afternoon. Often mistaken for a local, I have gotten into the habit of slipping in and out quietly since I didn't know anyone. Usually the non-Asian foreigners would get noticed naturally.

One day I had accidentally sat at the back row which was reserved for late-comers. The usher must have noticed I couldn't read the sign, so ushered me to the front, and in doing so, introduced herself. After service I said hi to her again, and she told me about the "Malaysian Night" they were organising. On the day of the event, she called me to ask if I was going. How could I say no?

Turned out there was a missionary team from the New Life Restoration Church PJ who had visited KBF. They had some special event in the church, and it included making mooncakes! Of course I had forgotten it was Mooncake Festival just around the corner then.

I found it ironic though that I have never make mooncakes back home, so not wanting to reinforce the irony, I politely declined and told them I'd take pictures for them! But it sure looked fun. One of the Malaysian pastor's wife was teaching them how to make snow skin mooncakes. In the church kitchen, another lady was   gathering the rest to cook bak kut teh.

As I watched in amazement how easy it was to make snow skin mooncakes, the smell of herbal soup wafted from the kitchen to the hall. I couldn't wait for dinner to begin!

They even brought along the moulds to make the mooncake. It looked like children at play as they mixed the different colours and produced multicolour skins. At the end of it, they put it into the fridge to let it set while we started having the bak kut teh together.

I'm not sure if the bak kut teh had been adapted for the Japanese palate, but it tasted sweeter than I remembered. Well, no complains, sweet bak kut teh is better than nothing! I just can't wait for mum to send over some Malaysian food seasonings so I can start cooking.

During dinner, the Malaysian team did some presentation and shared abit about their church, how they became the sister church to KBF, and sang the popular icebreaker song "Hari Ini Ku Rasa Bahagia".

The Japanese reciprocated with a Hawaiian dance rendition of the song "Just Let me Say". It had been so long since I heard that song, and it was just so meaningful that I had to wipe off tears. Also, the dance was very beautiful that I almost wanted to learn that dance too. I guess anything that's inspiring can inspire you to do the same too, even if it's something you're quite bad at!

True to the Mooncake Festival, they shared about the lanterns too. They brought some traditional lanterns for us to enjoy as they shared the story about the culture.

After the irony of the mooncake making, I couldn't help but be amused that glasspaper lanterns are also a thing of the past. It's really quite rare to see such lanterns on sale because they're mostly dominated by battery-operated ones with Angry Birds on it.

Then we did a little prayer walk around the church and ended up at the parking lot where we prayed for Kobe and the country of Japan.

I made some new friends too that evening. Like this couple who certainly made me feel at home. The husband is Japanese, who found his love in Indonesia, and they both speak each other's language so fluently that I wouldn't have known otherwise. 

When the Malaysian pastor's wife found out that I had just arrived in Japan and was looking for a church, she told me to stay on in KBF, that I didn't need to look further. With all the love I'm experiencing, perhaps I don't need to anymore. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

more new toys

After my first week here, I got 2 new toys. The first was a foldable bike from the IT head, a Japanese guy who is quite open-minded compared to the typical Japanese boss. You won't believe this, but because we're such a traditional Japanese company we don't use calendar invites for meetings and he was the first to introduce it within the IT department.

So, anyways, I think I must've said something like planning to get a bicycle once I settle into my own place. It was a no-brainer since I always had some mode of transportation to get around even in Niigata and Tokyo. It was just a standard answer I gave when colleagues asked how I was settling in, and since I've already lived in Japan before I had a rough idea what to get.

I was quite surprised at first, and thought maybe he's joking. But he said it was a gift that he received, and no one in his family was using it, so he thought it would be better that I have it. I even insisted to pay for it.

This, I thought may be forgotten since we were at my welcome party, and everyone had been drinking. However, my colleagues remembered, and actually reminded him about the bicycle when they found that I had moved. I almost had to shush them because I didn't want the IT head to think I was being demanding.

So one Sunday morning on his way to get golf clubs, he dropped by with the bike. I was really happy! I've only taken it for a ride one Summer Saturday but decided I'll try again in the Autumn when it's cooler. I can't wait to go further with this toy.

I've been visiting this church near my home for some weeks now. Usually I go sit in a corner, enjoy the worship, listen to the sermon, say a little hi/bye after the service and go home. I was in a "visitor" mode, so I didn't really think much about making friends.

For some strange reason, I didn't want it to be sad if I didn't end up in the church. And it's really easy to do that when I blend in and look like one of them. They would usually notice visitors who are "different"- white, black.

However, one Sunday I kinda walked into the "wrong" pew, one which was reserved for late-comers at the back. The usher, must've sensed I didn't know how to read the sign on the cushion, and introduced herself. A middle-aged divorcee, she has been faithfully serving in the church for some time, as I later found out.

After the service ended, I looked for her to introduce myself. Actually I've seen her every week that I visited Kobe Bible Fellowship (KBF), and she seemed like a really nice lady, usually in the background. As we talked, and she found out I had just moved, she asked if I'd like anything for the apartment.

I was really surprised as it was my first time meeting her, and she was already offering some utensils left behind by previous foreign church members. So she brought me downstairs to the store and showed me boxes of plates, glasses and cutleries.

Also, I offered to buy, even though they were pre-loved, but she insisted I take them. I decided since I had only 1 mug, maybe a few more glasses would be good in case of guests. The week after, she brought a used rice cooker for me. This was on loan, but it's just perfect for me! I didn't have to spend on getting one myself, and definitely didn't have to think of disposing it.

I can't help but marvel at how God has provided for my needs, little by little, just by the kindness of people around me. I didn't ask for any of these, but I've certainly gotten more than I imagined!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

soba for housewarming

After going through few rounds of house hunting and narrowing my choices, and missing my earlier choice, I finally chose Castalia. It was my 2nd choice initially but after being here a few days realised it's not that bad.

In fact, it's a lot better in many ways than Puresir. I don't need the extra space because I don't have that much time to clean anyways, though I thought would be spacious enough to host. I also don't need a tv in the bathtub coz I might doze off and waste more water while being engrossed in a show, though I thought I can kill 2 birds with one stone!

So finally after a quick decision Yuri and Koresawa-san helped me move on a weekend. Yuri met the real estate agent to collect the key while Koresawa-san drove me to the new place with my luggage. Once we got there, we wasted no time but immediately I went out again to look for necessities. Yuri waited at home for the washing machine and fridge, while I searched for oven, tv and vacuum cleaner. In the meantime, she helped put the lace curtain and room lamp.

They're a really nice bunch and not just doing their job as HR people. Koresawa-san even brought us lunch while waiting, and so Yuri and I had a little "housewarming" meal of soba. Apparently the Japanese custom is to give soba to your neighbours when you move to your new place. Something like a sign of gratitude for them accepting you, and to show goodwill.

Even though it's a simple dish, I thought it was quite meaningful. At least I was not alone when I stepped into my new home. It would have been quite daunting having to negotiate details with the landlord, hunt for necessities for the house, deal with delivery staff who only speak Japanese while they set up appliances and cough out all those $ initially.

It's been more than a month since then, and I've started adding colours and shapes, bit by bit. I think it's going to be quite fun trying to design my own place. I'm definitely going to need more than a bed for furniture.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

house hunting p3

I'm pretty happy with this place, though initially it wasn't my first choice. Or so I thought.

So for my 2nd house hunting, the real estate agent had 5 in his list initially. This list was made around the same time as the 1st house hunting, so they were more or less similar in size, price range and "age", if there was such a thing. After the 1st round, HR refined the list with me now that I've surveyed some areas and have a better idea what I was looking for.

So when Yuri and I met the 3rd agent, he mentioned he had 2 more to show us. I had quite low expectations then, but the fact that the 1st was very near the station made it a good selling point. In fact, Castalia is just opposite the station.

I was pretty impressed as it looked really nice, and they had just had cleaning services so it looked almost brand news. I liked the modern touches, and the various buttons that make life more convenient.

There was even a "delivery box" facility, which means the delivery guy can keep your purchases in a mailbox which can be retrieved with a password. Usually you're supposed to be at home when delivery is made, but this is great since I'm out most of the time.

I like how they do the cleaning so professionally. Even covered the wash sink, bathtub, toilet, kitchen sink with plastic.

The 2nd was also new to the list, and was similarly built as the 1st. Both were less than 10 years old, so was more to what I was looking for. I think having lived in Watanabe-san's house spoilt me, it had everything, and more! I doubted I would get anything exactly the same again, but having newer things meant lighter colours which translates to lighter mood.

However, there was construction happening just opposite the block, and I wouldn't know how it would turn out. Would I be facing someone else's balcony? Will that block my view and any good sunlight when I dry my clothes?

It had modern touches for the bathtube and sink, with ample space and cabinets. Also opposite the kitchen, so I guess all the water-related activities are all in one place!

Residia is similar to Castalia in many ways, except that instead of IH, it has a stove. Good for wok dishes, but maybe not good for me forgetful sometimes! When I'm busy multitasking I forget I have the water boiling, I've burnt my mum's pot a few times :D

Most newer Japanese homes have all these buttons for various functions - indoor blower, temperature for bathtub water, to answer your visitor's call, and even to check that the level of water in the water heater.

The 3rd, Taisei Housy is located very near to the Sannomiya station, so it's in one of the older buildings. Interesting part is it was meant for patients of the clinic downstairs, so it kinda reminded me of being in hospital!

There are low handles everywhere and large spaces good for wheelchairs to move around. Very thoughtful. Even the entrance is a huge sliding door rather than those that you open to the side.

The toilet here is the most advanced compared to the rest, the seat automatically flips up when motion is detected.

The funny thing is it has a HUGE balcony, which is bigger than the room itself. Quite a nice view, but I wondered what I'd do with such a large space outside. Have a tent and rent out to campers? There's glimpses of the mountain though.Would be lovely to have garden tables and chairs for teatime.

The 4th was slightly older, near some shopping street in Sannomiya. This one did not have elevator and was on the 4th floor. It has darker colours.

Quite huge space with 2 rooms, and ample space for cooking too. They even put up wall paper for the different sections with a little explanation for the design!

Even the toilet wall gets its own wall colour. Very clean but unfortunately wouldn't be too convenient with no elevator nor security. Plus point is it's just opposite a sento (public bath). I guess if I do make it to the sento, I would sweat again on the way back to the room!

The 5th one, was also not in the original list. Pretty impressive I must say, this one. It's one of the largest with almost 35m2 of space and located nearer to Shin-Kobe. Also quite new and has modern touches.

It even has a little TV monitor at the bathtub! Now you can enjoy a soak while watching the latest Japanese drama. Or maybe put on some music while sipping some bubblies.

It has a sliding door that can open up to make a larger space, or closed up to have a kitchen and dining area.

This one too faced the mountain, and you can even see the cable car right at the top. I really liked this, I could imagine hosting friends and having some parties even. The balcony goes all around to the side since it's a corner lot.

Puresir is the most expensive of all, due to its location and size. When we went downstairs to check out the parking lot, I couldn't help but notice that potential neighbours owned X3 and Lexus. So maybe I can't go around in old shabby clothes!

So after having a look at many nicer ones, I couldn't help but compare the following ones to the previous. The 6th is a bit old, which was okay. Just that the design of the apartment was a bit funny. Like a far corner for the kitchen. What if I want to make Milo in the middle of the night?

Also nice view of the mountain. Not much development in the area, so this should stay intact.

The bathroom and toilet are at the other end and near the entrance. There is a separate room which is also on the other end. Not a very convenient design though. Plus, no modern touches!

The 7th, was located in Motomachi, which is Kobe's Chinatown. It's right in the middle of the shopping street in fact. If you've been to one of those covered shopping street, imagine Petaling Street, it's like living upstairs on the shoplot. So the view isn't that great, you can see lots of roofs and grills and pipes!

But once you're in there, it doesn't feel noisy. Plenty of sunlight and white spaces. Similar to Puresir, you can slide the doors to make a bigger space.

Also nice kitchen with modern touches. Plenty of space for cooking equipment and cutleries.

This is the entrance to the apartment. So when you come down to throw the rubbish you can't be in house clothes. There will be lots of people walking around shopping! 

The last one is a little far, in fact it needs a few stops on the train after the city centre. There's some Buddhist "temple"opposite.

This was in the list because a lot of our office employees apparently live here too. So it might be convenient to have colleagues in the same building? Depends on how often you want to see them!

This may not be that new, but it comes furnished with some simple furniture and electrical equipment. Cosy but also no elevator and security.

This one comes with carpet too! Would be good for winter. It's in a very residential area, so lots of houses nearby, parks and schools.

But maybe not that convenient coz it's not near to the city centre and where I work. Also I still preferred something newer. Or maybe it's because the older ones tended to have funny colour schemes, stains that can't be cleaned, or darker wood that makes the room a little gloomy. Of course security and convenience is top for me.