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25 Feb

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First weekend after New Year’s Day

21 Jan

I've been feeling listless since 2011 started so I decided to perk up my look with a haircut. Off to dinner.

The requisite appetizer sampler in Lu.

Great choice - turmeric chicken. The accompanying pomelo salad was addicting.

New on the menu: hangar steak and burger combo

Warm apple pie (!) and lemon cheesecake

Nice, minimalist interiors

Off to the newly opened Barcino in Powerplant for a nightcap

Thriller in December

13 Jan

Before the deluge of work, I thought I’d post some pictures from last month to bid a proper goodbye to 2010. 2010, you’ve been fairly good to me. I want magic in 2011.

Joaki's Birthday at Crystal Jade. I thought the food was ho-hum. Choi Garden was way better.

At NMI's 10th Year Anniversary Costume Party. I came as Coco Chanel, D as Karl Lagerfeld, K as Mona Lisa and F as herself.

The tree

The centerpiece - Cebu lechon!

Paella Valenciana

Paella Negra

The family

Jumping for joy!

Oh, Tokyo! Part IV

31 Dec

It was either Disneyland or Akibahara-Ginza-Science Museum. The pull of Mickey and Minnie was just too strong.

Pressed against the glass in the first car of the very crowded JR Yamanote Line on a Monday morning, I took this picture.

The romantic DisneySea harbour behind me

Superbly talented street musicians

Galileo's room

Because of the long lines, we didn't get on as many rides as we wanted at Disney. So really, the highlight of my day was having dinner at this place.

Gotta love the Japanese for their attention to detail

I ordered the specialty, sukiyaki. The server showed me how to prepare. The blue jar contains sweet-salty soy sauce and the white one contains water, which you use to balance out the taste.

After pouring soy sauce into the pan, she added the meat.

I cooked the veggies, noodles, tofu and other ingredients the same way.

The server will ask you if you want whisked raw egg as dipping sauce. And God bless the Japanese for their rice.

Imahan is located at the food court of Takashimaya, which is truly a foodie haven.

Oh, Tokyo! Part III

26 Dec

Tokyo city tour scheduled on our third day. Same drill as the day before – pick-up at Keio, bus to Hamamucho station where we boarded our assigned tour buses.

Barrels of sake donated to the shrine

Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine, a sprawling Shinto shrine in central Tokyo.

You have to wash your hands and mouth before stepping inside the main temple complex

Lucky to witness two weddings! Here's the first one. I love how the Japanese wedding gowns are so fashyon!

Wedding No. 2. The bride and groom and their entourage sauntered so regally to the middle of the courtyard, oblivious to the throngs of tourists and visitors offering prayers.

The Imperial Palace where the Emperor and Empress live is off-limits to commoners but visitors are allowed to tour the East Gardens. Me at the entrance.

Dwarfed by the giant slabs of stone

In love with the lovely autumn colors.

Yellow trees! Who needs yellow ribbons on oak trees?

Our next stop was the Asakusa Kannon, the biggest Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

The devout wrote their prayers on paper, rolled and tied them up onto a string as offering.

Joining the throng of devotees

Leading up to the main temple, there were stalls selling food and souvenirs. I loved watching one lady make takoyaki. She'd pour the batter onto a hot mold and flip the balls deftly with chopsticks to cook the other side.

As were about to leave the temple grounds, I saw a Buddhist nun so I asked to have my picture taken with her and she obliged.

View over Western-style lunch. Nice break from Japanese food!

Steak and hash brown

Fish and shrimps

Dessert plate

Tokyo Bay cruise after lunch

View of Fuji Broadcast Center in Odaiba from the boat

Our final stop was in the city of Odaiba, a high-tech urban area with lots of elevated walkways. It was built on reclaimed land. It's a wonderful place for young people (read: teenagers) to hang out. The Statue of Liberty in the background was, like New York's, a gift from the French government.

Oh, Tokyo Part II

22 Dec

Pick up at Keio Plaza

Because I couldn’t bear the thought of going to Japan and not seeing Mt. Fuji, I booked a tour with Sunrise Tours. Pick-up service at my hotel was not available but the main pick-up point in Shinjuku, Keio Plaza Hotel, is a 10-minute walk so it was not a problem.

We drove by the Tokyo Tower, which is actually taller the Eiffel Tower

It took us 40 minutes to get to the Hamamucho bus station where we disembarked and exchanged our vouchers for stickers and were assigned our buses tour guides.

Saw this giant billboard of Tommy Lee endorsing Boss -- not Hugo Boss but a local coffee brand often found in vendo machines and grocery shelves

On the bus, I met Yoko, our tour guide, who spoke very good, intelligible English. After two hours, I finally have a glimpse of Mt. Fuji!

Snow-capped Mt. Fuji

Late autumn is a good time to visit because, in the summer, the snow melts, so Mt. Fuji doesn’t look quite like the mountain we see in most travel photographs.

We were caught in weekend traffic so instead of going straight to Mt. Fuji, we stopped for lunch here.

My bento box contained a scoop of Japanese rice (the packet on the lower left side is shisho powder that you're supposed to mix in with the rice), tuna and shrimp sashimi, Japanese omelet, grilled salmon, deep-fried shrimp and all sorts of treats. We had green tea sherbet for dessert.

When we finally got to Mt. Fuji, we made our stop at the 4th station because the 5th station, which is the closest you can get via bus and has all the souvenir shops, was closed. But after 10 minutes or so, the fifth station was opened. Here I was at the Torii gate of the 5th station.

The beautiful autumn colors at Lake Kawaguchi.

Me lining up for the cable ride to Mt. Tenjosan. Lake Kawaguchi is behind me.

Another view of Lake Kawaguchi while queueing up for the cable ride

We took the bullet train back to Tokyo.

Me with the best guide in Tokyo, Yoko.

Dinner at Katsukura in Takashimaya

Japanese beer

Pickles. Ewww.

Crush the sesame seeds to release the flavor.

Mix with the sauce provided and use this as dip for your katsu

My ground beer katsu.

Oh, Tokyo Part I

2 Dec

I knew we would be riding PAL‘s new Boeing 777 to Narita so I was quite excited to get on the plane. Unlike the old, tired aircraft I took to Honolulu, this one was so new, it almost sparkled.There was so much luggage space and headroom.

My very own

My favorite part was the entertainment system. Of late, I’ve been having a hard time sleeping during a flight so any distraction is welcome. Unfortunately, to and fro Honolulu last October, there was very little in-flight entertainment on offer so I had to make do with Toy Story 3, Despicable Me and Sorcerer’s Apprentice even if I had to strain my neck to seeĀ  the overhead TV screen.

Touchscreen

Not this time. On board the 777, I got my own entertainment console where I was able to watch movies (Letters to Juliet was my pick) and TV shows and play games.

I played Bookworm and Sudoku

Not much improvement on the food though

Narita at 8:05 p.m.

Narita Express ticket to Shinjuku -- more than 3K yen

Cute green pay phones

Platform 6 for Narita Express to Central Tokyo

From Shinjuku Station, it was a short walk to Hotel Sunroute Plaza, relatively affordable but still the price of a 4-star hotel in LA.

The lobby. The hotel was ideally located.

Go-to place for a late-night meal

The chicken carbonara sandwich was good!

Any time is a good time for sweets

Caffeine jolt from a grocery shelf