Whiskeys and Cookies

On our second day, we travelled from Sapporo to nearby Yoichi to tour the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Factory. The founder, Masakata Taketsuru, hails from a family of sake brewers. Given his family’s business, he studied to be a chemist and travelled to Scotland to learn how to make something new (in Japan), whiskey. While there, he learned from the best whiskey distillers until he, too, became a master blender. He became the first Japanese man to do so. He fell in love with Scottish woman named Rita whose parents did not agree of him. Despite this, they still got married and moved back to Japan where Masaka established a local company’s whiskey distillery. Later on, he resigned and set up his own distillery in Hokkaido where the climate is similar to that of Scotland’s.

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From Nikka Whisky’s website

We were led by the tour guide to the entrance where she left us to roam the property. We were able to see the history of the distillery and the different stages of whiskey making.

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Our tour included complimentary whiskey taste test at the end. We lined up cafeteria style and took one glass each of the drinks: Pure Malt Whiskey, Blended Whiskey and Apple Wine.  I seldom drink and when I do, I usually gravitate towards the sweet-flavored drinks so I guess it was natural for me to not like the whiskeys. One sip of each and I couldn’t take any more. They tasted like gasoline and felt hot from my throat down to my stomach. I did like the Apple Wine but like the others I only took one sip because allergies. 😛

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Sad Snowman

After that interesting stop at the factory, time for lunch Otaru Kihinkan, an old-villa turned-restaurant of the Aoyama clan who gained fortune from herring (or Tawilis as per Google) fishery.  Full disclosure, that info is from the internet. I had no clue about the place’s culture when I was there! 😛 I just took pictures because the views were insta-worthy =))

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foods

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We left the restaurant for more shopping. The bus dropped us off in Otaru’s center to try out the local products. I had a list of everything I wanted to buy in Sapporo which I lifted from this website https://www.tsunagujapan.com/25-must-buy-souvenirs-from-sapporo/. I found most of them in Otaru! We also tried Kitakaro’s freshly-made cream puff and by freshly-made, I mean I couldn’t bring it home as pasalubong; it’s only good for 24 hours. It was heaven in a bun! The cream wasn’t too sweet and just the right consistency plus they weren’t stingy with the cream! Did I tell you that Hokkaido is known for its dairy? No? Well, now I’ve told you. Every product that boasts of “MADE WITH HOKKAIDO MILK” is now a to-eat for me. Hahahaha. I also tried their soft serve ice cream but it was just okay.  Maybe I should’ve ordered the rainbow one that had eight flavors 😦  I’m sorry, I didn’t take any photos because it was so cold, my hands would freeze instantly if I took them out from my pockets. #badblogger

Our next stop for the day was the Shiroi Koibito Park. Shiroi Koibito is a famous Japanese cookie with white or milk chocolate filling. Honestly, this place was just meh. We went inside the building where again, the brand’s history was told. It also gave us a glimpse of the cookie factory but because of the crowd looking in, you wouldn’t really see anything unless you waited for the crowd to disappear. Iyong iba tumatambay na lang sa hagdanan! I guess the best part of this place would be the outdoor park where they installed colorful lights but again, super daming tao.

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This just inspired me to start a teacup collection
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Aww. Paw prints!

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When we got back to the hotel, my sister and I visited the Sapporo Ice Festival. It was opening the next day but the park was already open to the public the night before. We figured we’d have more time that night than the next day because it was shopping day 😛 It was spread throughout,maybe, seven to ten blocks? Comparing to the one in Harbin, this festival is smaller but what I love about this one is the line of food stands and stores.

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Hanging Out in Hokkaido: Snow Day

Hey! How have you  been? I haven’t posted in months!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I’m so excited to tell you about what’s been going on recently!!

Late last year, we were invited to visit the 2017 Sapporo Ice Festival. The trip is to celebrate our supplier’s 70 years in the Philippines and will be all-expenses paid. Yay! I wasn’t supposed to go but my brother wasn’t available so we had one remaining ticket 🙂 I had my reservations at first because it might coincide with another trip but luckily, it didn’t! 🙂

Preps for the trip started right after we found out; we were in Japan twice late last year so we decided to look for and buy winter stuff, i.e. boots and thermals, then. We scored Columbia winter boots for just 3,500 pesos! Such a steal! Of course, our thermals were from Uniqlo lol.

Okay, now that that’s done. It’s time to tell you about the trip itself.

We left Manila in the morning and arrived in Tokyo at 3PM. Our generous sponsor gave us business class tickets! Hello, airport lounge and leg room!

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The view from the airport lounge. Not in photo: the amount food I consumed inside the lounge!

I just have to say that ANA’s flight attendants were really nice and courteous. They greeted us personally upon boarding. I mean greeted us like,  “Hi, Ms. _______. Please enjoy the flight”. They changed into “proper attire” when it was time to serve the food. They removed their coats and wore aprons.  Also, napaka-efficient nila. Unlike sa atin na ang daming announcements and preparations before landing, ANA’s crew  do all of these just once. Like when we’re really about to land na.

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LEG ROOM. DI AKO SANAY, BES
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We were given a choice of Western or Japanese food. I chose Western! Ang sarap!

Our flight to Chitose Airport was at 5:55PM so we had time to buy last minute winter gear at the airport. There are a lot of shops inside Narita Airport pala. There was Muji and Uniqlo. I didn’t know! We left the airport on time and landed close to 8PM with ice on the tarmac!  It was so cold! I don’t remember the exact temperature but I think it was below zero. The tour guide told us that we were lucky because a few days before, the snowfall was heavy and there was limited visibility.

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Our first glimpse of the snow

By the time we got to the hotel, I was famished. Maybe the cold burned most of the food I ate on the way HAHAHA. We ate grilled beef and seafood hotpot, and ordered hot beverages as we sat down.

Our first meal

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After dinner, we checked in to our rooms. My sister and I wanted to test our new boots so we went out. It was legit white all around; the bushes lining the sidewalk were covered in snow and you can see snow that’s been shoved to the side of the road. We walked along the street until we couldn’t take the cold anymore. We stopped at a Family Mart to see what we could buy. While there, we called our parents via Viber to show them we were still alive… just frozen. Joke!

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The boots
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The sidewalk by our hotel

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My nose was getting red and there was already smoke coming out of my mouth when I breathed. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. As we were nearing the hotel, it started to snow!! I was seriously freaking out!

Our call time the next day was, I think, at 9:45AM. After breakfast, we still had some time so we went out again. Guess what? IT WAS SNOWING! We walked to the nearest department store (where the others were) and took more photos. Nag-selfie din yata kami with a snow-covered tree. hahaha! #turista

Slow-mo para kita ‘yung snow! :p

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After our fun in the snow, we boarded the bus going to Snowland. It was this park where you can do different snow activities like snow sliding, snowmobile driving, skiing and others. Snow sliding was included in the package so it’s free while the others had additional fees. I tried the snow sliding first kasi for sure hahaba pa ang pila (we were the first tour group to arrive), and then my sister and I purchased tickets for the snow mobile. The slide was so much fun; you get these salbabida-shaped things and then go up the slide made of snow. Once on top, you choose a slide (there were four), sit on top of your salbabida and then ask the guide to push you down. I did it three times because my sister didn’t get a photo or video of me twice! At my last try, the guide turned my salbabida around so I was sliding down backwards! Kaloka si ate. Baka nairita na sa akin HAHAHA.

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On the other hand, the snowmobile activity was like driving at a go-kart; you get five rounds to drive around the track.  It was a bit scary at first because of the turns and the possibility of crashing into another person but I eventually got the hang of it. My sister got a free round! Beside and behind the park’s main building, there were a few snow sculptures. They also offered pony rides!!

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We had lunch after at a horse park called Northern Horse Park. Most of the award-winning race horses come from Hokkaido and this park is one of the many that raise them. They also house retired horses. We were allowed to roam the grounds after eating to meet the horses but sadly they were kept inside due to the cold weather. I did see a border collie dog, though! He was patiently waiting outside the restaurant for its owners. Before we left, I saw it playing with kids in the snow 🙂

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We went to the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival next. It was situated near the Lake Shikotsu, thus, the name. In order to see the ice creations, you walk through a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel is the ticket booth where they ask for donations for maintenance. Past the ticket booth is a winter wonderland! It was like being in an ice city! See the photos below to find out 🙂

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My favorite!

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We left the festival and headed to Sapporo for the next leg of our trip! On the way, we saw deers! 🙂

2016

With 2016 coming to a close,  I’d like to share with you the things I learned this year:

  • You are your worst enemy 

Earlier this year, I joined my first 21K Marathon by Nike. It took me months before I finally decided to sign up mainly because I was not sure I could finish 21 kilometers of running. I kept thinking I wasn’t ready; I haven’t logged that much miles in yet. I kept saying “Ang kapal naman ng mukha kong sumama sa 21K.” I focused on my failures that I did not see my potential.  I’m grateful my breastfriend convinced me to challenge myself and I’m proud to say that I exceeded my expectations. Ang goal ko lang naman kasi ay hindi maging last, haha!– my time was about 3 hours and 2 minutes.

  • Your only competition should be yourself 

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In Crossfit, I remember being the last one to finish a WoD and I felt really defeated. It discouraged me to attend classes because I was ashamed of being last.  When I started training for the 21K, I forced myself to regularly attend sessions even when I knew I would hate the WoD. I started feeling better about myself not because I was the #1 in the stats board but because I was feeling better with what I could accomplish with my body. I didn’t mind what was on the board anymore as long as I completed the WoD alive and kicking! Bonus na lang if my time is better than my time before or others’ 🙂

Continue reading “2016”

Fukuoka-Nagasaki

I know this might be a bit morbid but one subject that interests me is the World War II. Aside from your usual serial killers or mysterious events, the World War II is one keyword that pops up in my Google search history from time to time. A dream of mine is to visit as many WW2 museums as I can or maybe the Auschwitz camp in Germany. I only know four museums, actually, most of them in Japan. Last year, I visited the Peace Museum in Osaka and the experience was just heartbreaking. Children who survived the war drew portraits of what they saw and most of them had dead bodies and huge fires.  My cousin’s family visited Hiroshima earlier this year and I was envious. Luckily, one of our suppliers invited us on an all-expense paid trip. Even more lucky, it was in Japan. And the best news, it included a side trip to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum!

I’ve included our itinerary for easier reference:

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Since I and my sister will be joining a tour group, I knew early on that there won’t be that much tourist sites. As what my sister said, this trip was more for pleasure so I expected a lot of down time i.e. shopping.

Our flight was set on October 25 (my dad’s birthday!) morning. We arrived at Fukuoka International Airport at around 3:00PM local time and was at the hotel by 4:00PM. We had about an hour to walk around the neighborhood before going to dinner. According to the tour guide, Fukuoka City is the fifth biggest city in Japan with a population of 1.5 million. It is 2 hours away from Tokyo, about 1000 kilometers. It was the gate between Japan and the continent (China, Korea, etc). It had the government facility that granted permission from the emperor to travel. One famous dish that comes from Fukuoka is Hakata Ramen, a kind of ramen which uses a pork-bone tonkontsu broth.

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Nagasaki, on the other hand, was the only open port to the west during Japan’s self-isolation. It was also one of the places where an atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. These were from the tour guide’s intro while on the bus and I haven’t fact-checked some of these so feel free to correct me. 🙂

Fun Fact:

Fukuoka has been known ever since as “Hakata”.  A samurai from a town called “Fukuoka” in another prefecture then went to Hakata and established his Fukuoka Castle. This led to the division into two: Hakata and Fukuoka. However, after the Samurai era, there was a vote on what to name the city. “Fukuoka” won by one vote.

More here: http://www.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/promo/english/magazine/sanpo.html

Our hotel (Hakata Excel Hotel) is comfortably situated between Hakata and Tenjing areas. From what I can recall, Tenjing area is famous for its shopping, dining, entertainment and night life while Hakata is more the laid-back and cultural area but is now starting to boom. Again, if you have more info, don’t hesitate to tell me!

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The view from our hotel room

We went out to grab a snack at a nearby Mo’s burger, scoured the aisles of a Family Mart and looked for the closest Don Quijote branch before going back to the hotel. Our dinner that night was at a shabu shabu place 🙂

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TIL.  The shabu shabu soup isn’t really meant to be drunk; you just cook the food there, one by one. Unlike what we did as seen below.. 😛

To keep this post short, I’ll just mention the highlights of our trip!

Continue reading “Fukuoka-Nagasaki”

Time

I found this file dated November 2015 stashed in a flash drive. I think this was supposed to be my first blog entry but scrapped it. I don’t really remember the reason why but knowing me, it might be because it was too.. I don’t know,  personal? Anyway, posting it now! 🙂

I recently posted a tweet saying I was going to work out after seeing photos from the Victoria Secret Fashion Show because you know, VS Angels. My friend responded telling me she wished she could buy more time since she was so busy with work and her business. I read her tweet while I was stuck in traffic (as always) on my way to work, and it got me thinking. Isn’t it ironic that time has been said to never end, yet time is always what we always say we need more of?

When I was a kid, I had a collection of Barbie dolls. I lived my imaginary adult life through my dolls. She would be strutting down the runway (Yes, I once dreamed of being a fashion model) with her long legs and narrow waist. I couldn’t wait to grow up and do the same.

When I was in college, I began feeling like somehow time was going by fast. I had so much to do with so little time. Sophomore year gave me six days of classes. I was suffering by then I called my mom and just broke down. I wanted college to be over soon because I didn’t want the work anymore. Of course, college was still fun but I (or maybe all of us) wanted it to be over. I wanted my freedom; I wanted my own money; I wanted my new life.

When I started working, time went by faster. I also began to notice something. Everybody was in a rush. Everybody wanted to be first. Projects needed to be delivered the shortest time possible because this might mean repeat business or opportunities for more business. The less time you take in completing one task, the more tasks you can complete in a period of time. On the other hand, looking at the roads here in Metro Manila, you will notice how utterly selfish drivers can be. From counter-flowing to blocking intersections, drivers have a way of ruining your day just so they can go first. Somehow time and ultimately, going first became the priority.

The belief that doing more with little time has taken over our way of life. Most of the people I know don’t have time to eat breakfast before going to work for fear of being late. We sacrifice a thing or two in the morning just to make it in time for work. We are always in a hurry, hopping from one thing to the next. This is why we don’t have enough time. We don’t know how to stop anymore. We get antsy if we’re not doing anything and yet, on days when we have to do a lot of things, that’s when we just want to lie down and not move.

What I want to say is, we do have enough time but we don’t have it now. We want everything now because we’ve been told to do everything now.

Now that I am adult working in this fast-paced city, I want to go back to being that messy kid just wishing to grow up. I want to go back to that life that did not need to be lived quickly (and full of projects) in order to feel accomplished; to that life when eating a bar of Hershey’s chocolate was the heaven I only needed. Since I can’t possibly do that, this is where this (whatever this is) comes in. This is my nth attempt at writing to let ideas just flow. I wouldn’t want to call it a blog as this pressures me into writing for the blog’s sake. I’m just going to take this one rambling at a time and see where it goes. Let’s just say this is me on a chocolate-high.