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.