It’s Time to Live to Eat with Selections from Eatbook

I loooooove food – and I always believe that food is something that cannot betray me willingly, and it has always been a great pick me up and something that excites me greatly. Don’t know what gift to get me? Treat me to a good meal. That’s all I ask.

So it’s a great thing that I’m Singaporean – we have some amazing food all over our tiny island and Singaporeans are some of the most hardcore foodies I know. We will queue for however long it takes for that perfect bowl of laksa, or that fragrant chicken rice or for the whole day just to get into a new pop up themed Character Cafe. We are serious about our food and getting into arguments over which stall has the best Rojak or the best Wantan Mee isn’t unusual.

Food is an integral part of our lives so unsurprisingly there are lots of websites just dedicated to where you can get the best things to delight your tastebuds, and they pull in high traffic too. Some of my favourites are HungryGoWhere and DanielFoodDiary (okay I’ll read anything as long as you have photos of the food and tell me if the food is worth my time and money).

Eatbook.sg is a website dedicated to providing honest food reviews. Most of time I end up googling a cafe/restaurant and checking reviews before dining there. Or when in an unfamiliar area or somewhere you’re kind of sick of eating at the same few restaurants, a quick google becomes the go-to to find where to get a bite.

orchard eats
So Eatbook has Area Guides, Restaurant/Cafe Guides and Reviews and I found this one that I was initially quite excited about. 10 Hidden Eats in Orchard Under $20 and for non-Singaporeans, to fill you in, Orchard Road is like this upscale shopping street packed with mall after mall that caters to the shopping needs of tourists and locals alike and infamous for being unforgiving on your wallet. But truthfully, under $20 isn’t too difficult as long as you stray away from restaurants and find places that don’t charge GST and service charge. But 10 places with good food under $10 in Orchard? Now that is something I want to read – having worked in the area as a broke student on a $5 hourly wage, articles like that would have been more welcome.

Speaking of area guides, since I live nearby, I checked out their Best of Paya Lebar article and…I don’t know most of these places. WHICH IS GOOD! Because now I have an excuse to try them.

Ok but I have to say something about number 6, Arnold’s Fried Chicken.

arnolds

THIS IS THE BEST FAST FOOD FRIED CHICKEN I HAVE HAD. Ever. So good I had to put it in all caps. I found out about this place because we frequent the mall for hair/nail appointments and the famous Poon Nah City Homemade Noodles is there (spoiler: the quality has dropped so much! back when they were on the 4th floor? and the hype was real it was terrific. Still good but not as great as it used to be)

But back to Arnolds – it is reaaaaaaalllly gooood. The smell wafts into your nose when you’re in the vicinity and there’s always a queue on weekends. Plus also always people eating fried chicken! So here are my 2 cents worth as a regular (you’ll never go back to KFC again, it’s THAT good). But don’t bother with the 2 Person Combo, it’s way more expensive than ordering 2 half spring chickens or a spring chicken set and I personally love the chicken enough to not care about mash potatoes and coleslaw.

That said, Eatbook.sg is a good addition to all the other food centric websites. There’s not as much content as some of the older, more veteran names in the scene but when it comes to food I’m glad to read as many reviews and compare and contrast the various guides. There are so many places to eat in Singapore it would be difficult to cover everything so…the more the merrier right?

(But that can’t also be said for my expanding waistline….??)

xoxo,
Bernie

What is ‘beanmylife’?

I was reading another blog, and also remembered what Sherilyn said to me the other day, about how she misses how I used to write about life in Japan in general. How I used to blog about outings and things that happened.

Then today it struck me that why I enjoy reading some blogs so much is because it’s like a personal record of what life is – what you did, what you achieved, how you felt at that point in time, and reading back about it is the best kind of nostalgia. Because you can see what you’ve written and reflect on it, remember what Bernie of 6 months ago or 2 years ago wrote, and where you are now. Is it for better or worse? Have you grown?

A lot of my posts in 2012 were filled with angst and sadness. Sometimes 2016 me is very, very sad or angry too but it feels like I am in a better place to handle things hopefully more maturely. Because it is true that everything that has happened is just experience points that go to helping you figure out the best way for you to live life.

I still like writing more informative posts but I feel like somewhere along the way maybe I lost what it meant to have this blog, what ‘beanmylife’ meant. I wanted to write ‘articles’ so people would come and read, wanted to focus on things that would bring in page views…but then along the way I just never felt like writing sometimes. It was a drag, and so many posts remain as drafts for months and months.

I felt disheartened that no one was reading any personal ‘update’ posts, but I realised then when I went back to read the blog I felt sad that I hadn’t written more. How so many memories just remained in my head and weren’t in words so I could remember them better. That maybe I should be writing for myself. I’ll read these posts and remember again the happy times. The sad times. The boring times. Being honest in words to help myself grow and be honest to myself too. And also so that next time when I go back and read my old posts I can smile and think hey, I remember this. Oh yes, this was great too! Well, at least now you know better and won’t make this mistake again. You know, things like that.

So I am just going to write now.

In March I graduated from university. I had a ‘graduation trip’ from Osaka up to Tokyo. Typical graduation trip stuff, moving up from Osaka to Kyoto to Nagoya to Tokyo. It was fun, but it wasn’t the graduation trip I wanted. Travelling with family creates so many restrictions. It was difficult to meet up with friends, difficult to schedule things I wanted. Having to compromise what you want to do with what the group wants to do. Never got to say goodbye properly to a band I like and wish I could have supported more, been a better fan of. I did get to attend GACKT’s Last Visualive of which I am very grateful. It was a wonderful show.

But it was also this trip that cemented the end of my relationship. I was tired and I didn’t want to work at ‘fixing’ things. Didn’t see a future together, I lost all tolerance and just wanted it to be over. I was done with our differences, frustrated (angry even) in certain actions and behaviours. I decided it would be too much work and I didn’t think it would be worth it. They say travelling with someone reveals their true colours and it’s true. So a while after getting back to Singapore it was time to say goodbye. That’s the end of that chapter, but even bigger so, the more heart breaking part was having to say goodbye to Japan.

I hated Singapore so much for the month or so after being back. I hated being back. Hated being stuck with obligations. Hated not being able to choose what I wanted to do freely. Hated having to be responsible and having to stay here when I was happier in Japan. Sure, I had troubles in Japan but they were my troubles. They weren’t coming from obligation, from responsibility. I felt like there were shackles and anchors forcing me to stay in this country when all I wanted to do was stay in Japan for longer, so I could be free. So now I’m back, still trying to get my mind around staying in Singapore for the next couple of years. It’s not so much hating the country, but what staying here represented. I can’t live the way I want to anymore, I have to live for others, have to think about family, can’t just live for myself and do what I want to do. I hate it so much because I couldn’t just stay at home and be a shut in without being screamed at, threatened, humiliated or crying, crying, crying. My social media feeds were engulfed in a horribly emotionally anguish state filled with angry post after post.

Not everyone has the privilege of pursuing happiness because of our responsibilities and obligations.

People ask me if I’m happy to be back, or when they say, oh that’s good that you decided to stay. It’s better. But better for who? So being an adult means sacrificing bits of yourself for the ‘greater good’.

I’m very unhappy with the state of a lot of things. My Japanese has plateaued so badly, I have no motivation to study for N1, nor believe I will ever reach that. I see my peers in their new jobs, it looks like they’re improving but I’m doing nothing but slide back, back, back. I haven’t been able to successfully do things properly or see things through. So many failed ventures, ideas, thoughts. Friendships that never came to fruition because I didn’t put in enough effort, because I didn’t try, because I didn’t see the need to, didn’t want to. So I just resign myself to just never being a good friend, to everyone eventually forgetting me. Blaming others when really I’m probably just a bad friend. I can’t keep up conversations, I’m probably not great to talk to. How come I can talk to some people everyday without fail yet with others I can’t even keep a conversation going for 10 minutes?

When I just want to do nothing but then get bored of doing nothing. I am a boring person.

Maybe finally, time for happy things? I finally started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and I love it. Binged watched it, got spoiled for the Season 8 winner (so angry). Got to go to the Pokemon Cafe opening event. Starting the new part time job on Monday.

But I feel like I’m just stuck in a limbo of inertia. Some friends seem to just have so many people to talk to, is so well liked, has such a great love life. But it’s okay. I count the close friends I have with my hands and just feel like I’m stranded and doing nothing nothing nothing all day. I want to make new close friends, but I don’t even talk to the people I used to be close to, the people I already know. So what’s the point.

I guess I’ll try and look back at my photos and write about the happy times I remember. So that I won’t forget and can read back and smile. Recall when things were happy.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Pre-opening Party! Menu Preview + Photos with Pikachu!

Singapore’s very own Pokemon Cafe is set to open tomorrow, 27 May, and will run for a limited time only till 31 July 2016. I was one of 5 lucky winners to get VIP passes into the media event/pre opening party one day before their official open!

Pokemon Cafe Singapore by EwF

We were allowed to enter and buy merchandise, preview the food on the menu and Pikachu even made a special appearance!

FOOD MENU

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Menu Pokemon Cafe Singapore Menu 2

The food looks a tad pricier than normal cafe fare, especially the latte at $8 a cup? We weren’t able to try any of their menu items, but they were on display for us to take photos of. Needless to say everyone was crowded over the food displays and snapping lots of pictures!

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Food Saffron Rice

The Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce! $25.00

On their Facebook page, it states that you’re allowed to keep the Pokeball mug that the magma sauce is held in. No wonder it was the priciest item at $25. Not too bad if you can keep the mug but it looks pretty plain. Probably looks better than it tastes, but then again, you don’t really expect great food at themed cafes anyway.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Food 2

Battle On Pikachu! Level Up With Rare Candy! $20.00

I find this cuter than the Pikachu rice omelette and looks like it would be tastier to eat too. I’d probably order this if I decided to come down and try the cafe.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Food Primal Groudon Bologniese

Special Move “Fire Blast”! Primal Groudon’s Bologniese. $20.00

This looks pretty simple but could taste good…unless the sauce is bland then it’ll just be really jelak and you’ll get sick of eating it halfway through.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Food Truffle Fries

Pokemon Cafe’s Truffle Fries. $12.00

Sadly the Mudkip stamp on the potato wasn’t successful (neither was part of the Torchic one) but it would look pretty cute if done right. The three starters from Gen 3 are almost too cute to eat with the Pokeball ketchup and mayonaise. $12 is a bit expensive for Truffle Fries but hopefully they deliver on taste. There is nothing worse than a soggy french fry….

DESSERT MENU

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Primal Kyogre Dessert Plate

Special Move “Hydro Pump”! Primal Kyogre’s Dessert Plate. $15

I am going to be honest – this looks terrible. It just looks like lumps of jelly thrown onto the plate and is very unappetizing. I would not pay $15 for this.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Dessert Pokeball Cream Puff

Pokeball Cream Puff! $20.00

For display purposes, they used cotton wool instead of whipped cream (or maybe it is cotton candy?) but the Pokeball just looks sloppily done and not too appealing. The rest of the plate looks decent enough but I would think twice about spending $20 when I could just buy a really nice tasting cream puff from Beard Papa for a fraction of the cost. Well, I suppose having instagram worthy food comes at a steep price….

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Dessert Thundershock Parfait

Pikachu’s “Thunder Shock” Parfait. $15.00

The cotton wool is supposed to be the cotton candy and it looks like that’s a Pikachu macaron? It is pretty tiny for a $15 parfait….

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Dessert Pikachu Pancake

Pikachu’s Sweeeet Pancake. $20.00

Cute but pretty basic pancakes to spend $20 on…but you know, cute food comes at a price…I think I would stick to ordering a main dish instead of a dessert.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Pikachu Latte

Pikachu Latte, Iced. $9.00

Just a latte but with a picture of Pikachu on it. For $9? Will it come with a free coaster you can take home? There were 5 or 6 designs of coasters which would be a good incentive to buy otherwise overpriced drinks. It’s even more expensive than Starbucks!

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Pikachu Hot Latte

Pikachu Latte, Hot. $8.00

Same latte, just hot instead of with ice, comes with Pikachu latte art. Cute, but is it cute enough to shell out the money for?

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Pikachu Kigurumi

Another guest taking a photo of the Volt Tackle soda!

I didn’t get a picture of the other drinks, most unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of the Wanna Get Tingling!? “Volt Tackle” Soda ($10.00) because the Pikachu head had kind of melted into a round blob (you can kind of see it in that photo) and didn’t look like anything when I went to take a photo. There are probably pictures the other attendees took.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Food Pokeball Cookies

These aren’t on the menu but they brought out these Pokeball cookies as part of the light refreshments served. They tasted pretty good! Yum yum. Only got to eat one before the tray disappeared and others grabbed them.

MERCHANDISE

The Pokemon Cafe boasts some exclusive merchandise and also sells some older merch from the Pokemon Centers in Japan. They also sell plushies, comics and figurines so it’s not too bad if you find something that catches your eye.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Exclusive Merchandise

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Exclusive Merchandise!

The keyholders were the cutest, and I was contemplating buying one but I have too many already at home. I would have bought a sticker but at the exorbitant price of $4.90, I rather not. It’s a decent selection but nothing I would say screams BUY ME!!!! NOW!!! and since I had the luxury of expanding my collection of Pokemon merch from the actual PokeCenters in Japan, it’s nothing to shout about.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Merchandise
Lots of Pikachu plushies on sale at $25 each. A preview of the Pokemon keyholders and can badges you can buy at random and that black thing with the pop art style Pikachu is a coin purse. That line of Pikachu merchandise was sold agesssss ago. I remember because I was buying a planner for my friend in that exact design.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Merchandise keyrings

Close up look at the designs available – really cute! I miiiiiight buy maybe one to pin on a bag. Miiiiiiight.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Merchandise 2

More merchandise from past and also more recent collections sold at the PokeCenter. Really cute but at that price it really hurts my wallet…..

MEETING PIKACHU!

I think the highlight for Planet and myself was getting to take photos with Pikachu! Since there really wasn’t much else to do.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Photo with Pikachu
Pikachu came out to their photobooth and we all lined up for photos! The lighting was really quite terrible so all our pictures ended up pretty grainy and dark so I had to edit them and greatly increase the exposure.  Pikachu was so cute, though! The DJ played some of Pokemon’s BGM and the adorable electric mouse was grooving to the music.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Photo with Pikachu

We took another photo when the crowd thinned and Planet put on the Pikachu hoodie they had as a prop! Props to the staff who became the permanent cameraman for everyone and helped take pictures. The staff were wearing Pikachu ear headbands and tails! I wonder why they only sell Pikachu tails ($10) but not the ear headbands? Wouldn’t those sell better?

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Pikachu

Photo taken by the official cameraman that night!

Pokemon Cafe Singapore_Selfie

I tried the hoodie on too – haha you can see my improvised Pikachu necklace! It’s actually a keychain I had. My Pikachu T-shirt is from the monochrome 8 bit series! It’s sold randomly and I just so happened to get Pikachu! I wish I had bought another one….it was only 1,080yen.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore Polaroids

Polaroids we took tonight!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The space EwF occupies in Bugis Junction is terribly tiny. I’d never actually been there before so I didn’t know it was so small! It probably won’t be able to accommodate a lot of people at once so the wait would be quite long come opening day (and for as long as Singaporeans decide the hype is worth it…which will be for a while). I mean, if people are willing to queue 2 hours for Bake Cheese Tarts and the Hello Kitty Cafe, what more this limited time only Pokemon Cafe???

The food EwF served as refreshments (meatballs, popcorn chicken, bacon bits?, cookies) were decent and tasted pretty good actually. I don’t doubt that as a cafe their food tastes quite good but now with this new menu and food that looks more aesthetically pleasing than tasty….it’s going to be a hit or miss. We didn’t get to try anything so I can’t say for certain but based on looks alone there are some dishes that are not value for money and I wouldn’t bother ordering.

I guess for the novelty of it all, sure, give it a try, but as with all themed cafes, don’t expect too much.

Maybe when the queues aren’t ridiculously long, I might pop in to give the food a try. Also because they’re giving out an exclusive Pokemon Cafe Pikachu download code for ORAS on the 3DS. But I’ll wait till the initial rush goes to give it a try, and stalk food reviews online before I decide.

The Pokemon Cafe Singapore
200 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction #04-05
Open from 11am to 10pm (Last order at 9:30pm)

Where To Buy Plus Size Clothes in Japan

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten about living in Japan is about how difficult it is to find Plus Size Clothes there. Here is my experience with plus size shopping in Japan.

I am a size UK 14 – 16 (US 10 -12), 154cm tall (5″1) and shoe size EU 40/41, Japan 25.0-25.5/LL (though I barely fit most of their shoes as I have very wide feet). My main problem areas are chest (~40 inches), thighs and waist because most stores seem to not take into account that women have chests and butts….!? Unfortunately this guide will mainly be for women of similar size to me, but some of the places listed below do stock much larger sizes as well!

There are two main options – retail stores and online, of which the latter has been my main source, but in the recent years there are more options for plus size women in Japan.

PLUS SIZE CLOTHES AT RETAIL STORES

Are not as completely impossible to find, but it will get very frustrating after you exhaust store after store of clothes that will never fit you.

Of course large Western clothing lines (H&M, F21, Stradivarius, ZARA etc) are the bulk of my retail shopping as I know they stock sizes, however, most of their clothes stop at UK 14 sizes (or at 40, sometimes 42) and even then some don’t fit me. I’ve gotten almost all of my winter coats and sweaters from H&M and F21, though their largest sizes are a bit of a tight fit, especially since you’ll be wearing lots of layers underneath! Their off/end of season sales are AMAZING, especially H&M in Japan – clothes I’ve bought for 200yen there I’ve found back in Singapore retailing at $20 (2400yen).

beanmylife h&m dresses

Dresses from H&M in Japan
Left: Ice cream summer dress, 600yen, Size L
Right: ‘Kawaii’ long sleeve sweater dress, 1500yen, Size M
Necklace from Tuxessories

Japanese brands such as WEGO and SPINNS cater to youth fashion and do carry oversized large jackets, clothing and have skirts with elastic bands that can fit up to UK 14. Their skirts tend to be very short (as most skirts in Japan are) so someone taller than me might not be comfortable exposing that much leg. Their style is rather hip-hop, street fashion, so if you want something sweeter and more demure you can try Honeys but their LL sizes fit up to UK 12 to small UK 14, though most are best fit for UK 10 – 12 max.

beanmylife plus size clothes in Japan

Left: Purple Denim Jacket from Harajuku, 4000yen
Skirt from H&M, Size L
Shoes from YRU via asos
Right: Dress from Honeys (Cinema Club), Tagged L

This purple denim jacket is my favorite buy in Harajuku, and while I’ve forgotten the shop name, it’s basically a used oversized denim jacket that has been dyed. The store I went to had done this in many other colours, and in a whole range of sizes from S to XXL. Mine is specifically a Georges Marciano for Guess jacket tagged M that was dyed purple. And I love it. I can’t actually button it up all the way to the top, but I prefer it worn open anyway. I spotted similar both in WEGO and SPINNS, and they also have lots of oversized bomber jackets and sweaters.

I’ve also managed to buy clothes from some nondescript stores in Harajuku, though Takeshita Street changes every few months or so with large chain stores replacing the smaller quirky ones I loved back in 2012, so something you saw your last trip may not even exist there anymore.

UNIQLO and GU (aka the younger, more hip cousin to Uniqlo) stock sizes up to XL which fit a UK 12 to UK 14 for women (sometimes till UK16 for t-shirts), but don’t forget about the MEN’S SECTION. I get jackets and graphic t-shirts from there since the cut is bigger, roomier and also very comfy. Especially during the sales when pullover hoodies go for 1,500yen! I also wear Uniqlo’s XL size heat tech, which is a life saver during the cold seasons.

uniqlo japan beanmylife

Purikura with a friend and a photo with Takumi-senpai at Camui Gakuen Event/Concert in 2015
Left: Jacket from Uniqlo, 3000yen, Size XL
Dress from Forever 21, Size L
Right: Knit cardigan from GU Men’s, 700yen, Size XL
Skirt (part of seifuku set) from Bodyline, Size 3L

Japan recently launched plus size fashion magazine la farfa in April 2015, and more plus size tie ups as well as a plus size line PUNYUS was also launched. PUNYUS has a few retail stores, one notably in Shibuya 109 and stocks clothes up to 3 and 4L size. Their online store also ships internationally via tenso. I’ve never personally bought from them because their clothes, averaging upwards of 4000yen, have always been a bit too expensive for my budget.

Another Japanese line with an online store is Plumprino, the plus size brand under Yumetembo. Which while I haven’t personally purchased from, has mixed reviews and the sizes seem to fit up to a (smaller) UK16 or 3L size. They do have physical stores, but I never personally entered to check if Plumprino was stocked on the shelves. Their clothes are sweet, with frills and most notably popular among lolita fashion enthusiasts.

Other retail stores to try your luck at are Thrift Stores such as THANK YOU MART, JUMBLE STORE and MODE OFF/BOOK OFF HOME/PLUS. Japan has loads of thrift stores so if you’re keen on browsing through the racks then you’ll be able to find something!

Shimamura is known for having cheap and fashionable clothing and also has a plus size section! Somehow I never actually went and shopped at a store before, so I’ll definitely have to look for one when I’m next in Japan.

Don Quijote stores in Japan not only sell food, cosmetics, electronics (almost everything really) but they also have a clothing section! I’ve scored ridiculously cheap shoes there at 100yen a pair and they sell Halloween outfits, t-shirts, jackets, loungewear, kigurumi and even lingerie. Give them a try if you want something cheap, but don’t expect to find cocktail dresses there.

PLUS SIZE SHOPPING ONLINE

Online Japanese shopping portals such as Rakuten and Qoo10 do have plus size stores but you will have to look through and check the measurements very carefully.

I have purchased online from Belluna.jp which has a category for large size clothes, back in 2012. Then I bought some winter coats and items which were a bit of a hit and miss. They were a bit smaller than I’d hoped (even at the largest size) and the quality wasn’t great. The only plus is that they were relatively cheap. A quick search for 大きいサイズ (ookii saizu – large sizes) pulls up a list of Japanese websites that sell plus size clothes but their definition of large sizes usually aren’t very big at all so I got pretty frustrated quickly.

Another Japanese brand I shop from both online and at their retail store is Bodyline. It’s basically a store for cheap lolita and cosplay clothing and sizes go up to 4L. Their quality is decent and while I have never purchased a JSK/OP etc from them, it is my go-to store for Halloween outfits. I’ve also bought a pair of black and white Creepers from them. I’ve ended up using the skirt from the seifuku (school uniform) set as a regular skirt so with simple pieces like that they could just fit into your regular wardrobe.

halloween outfits from bodyline

Halloween outfits all bought from Bodyline’s online store

beanmylife outfit_uniqlo bodyline

Skirt from Bodyline (part of seifuku set), Size 3L
Pullover hoodie from Uniqlo, 1500yen, Size L (Men’s)
Jacket from Primark, 20 Euros, Size 16

The best option is to purchase from online retailers that ship internationally. My favourite for many years has been UK based asos that ship internationally free if you spend £20. They have a plus size category, Curve (UK 18 and up), and while it takes 2 to 3 weeks for your items to arrive, the items can be worth the wait. However, as with all online retailers there have been mixed reviews, including my own bad experience with them, but generally my experience has been positive.

Similarly, online stores such as F21 Plus and other plus size online stores that ship internationally would be a great choice, as long as you are willing to wait. I frequent tee-a-day sites for my fandom fixes, and it’s really all about being willing to source for items, scroll through and check measurements.

But the down side of online shopping is having items arrive and not fitting into them or the clothes end up being unflattering. This has happened too many times to count, especially when there are no specific measurements and the dress ends up being too tight at the chest or a different shade of colour. Ideally there would be more retail options but not just yet.

TIPS FOR ANYONE COMING TO JAPAN

If you’re going to be staying in Japan semi long term, bring along your basics, essentials and favourite pieces of clothing from home. I brought my jeans, favourite dresses and shoes along. Especially shoes, because having wide feet made it very difficult to find anything in the largest Japanese size that fit. When I did find something, the soles got worn out terribly fast and then I had to search all over again.

If you are larger than a UK 16, you might have a harder time than I did finding clothes, so be prepared to have to rely more on online shopping or your clothes from home instead of retail stores. I developed a phobia of sorts of shopping in retail stores because I believed nothing would ever fit me, and I would get frustrated and angry quickly.

Be patient and you will find clothes! I know friends larger than I am who have bought clothes from stores in Japan.

Additionally, some people may have asked Japanese friends regarding large sized clothing and gotten scared at a “Oh no you are too fat to find clothes” response, pfft. If you are under UK 14 size, you should have no problems finding clothes in Japan. Most free-size clothes will most likely best fit a UK 8 – 10, up to a smaller UK 12. However, most clothing lines cater to the petite Asian frame so if you have wide shoulders, hips or a large chest, it may be more difficult. So if you’re smaller than me, even if it’s difficult to find clothes due to problem areas, there’s no excuse for having breakdowns or saying you can’t find anything because there generally is a much larger pool of options for you as compared to someone larger.

I’m big and I still managed to find clothes so you can too.

I hope this post helps address any concerns about buying plus size clothes in Japan! Do leave a comment if you know any stores I’ve left out!

I leave you with an amazing piece of advice from Queen Ru, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” 

xoxo,
Bernie

Smart Travel Tips with TheSmartLocal

I realised that these past few years that I’ve been studying in Japan…I’ve barely traveled anywhere else. Always Japan-SG-Japan-SG and maybe once there was a short trip up to Penang. But that was it! You can ask me about travel tips to Japan and I could spew a whole long list but that’s the only thing I’m familiar with. Which is a shame since Singapore is so well connected to so many countries in the immediate vicinity with lots of cheap flights out thanks to budget airlines.

And while I haven’t explored much of Southeast Asia, it’s definitely on my list of places to go. Plus the best part is that there are loads of fun travel guides to help me plan my trips on TheSmartLocal.com so I can travel smart (plus you know, everyone wants the perfect pictures for instagram and vlogs for YouTube now and it’s good to have a site understand the needs of millenials, heh). TheSmartLocal is a lifestyle and travel portal chock full of activities to do both in and out of Singapore!

Who knew Bandung, Indonesia had such cool things – HORSE RIDING WHILE GAZING OVER A VOLCANO??????? What an experience perfect for showing off on social media (snapchat, instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube…every platform). And since it’s just neighboring Singapore I won’t have to empty the bank to head over.

I also really liked this post about Malaysia that helped dispel my preconceived notions that there is nothing exciting in this region. When I think of Malaysia I always think of JB, Malacca and Penang which is so been there done that; eat food, cheap shopping…and that’s it. But no, here are 20 Incredible Places in Malaysia to Discover With Your Best Friend.

smartlocalmalaysia

This is my pick for where I’d like to go! 😀

And speaking of Besties, Planet has been bugging me to go on a trip with her to Bangkok, another popular destination that always seems to have cheap flights and everyone cannot stop gushing about. But I’ve never actually been to all the popular shopping places and the last time I was in Thailand was maybe 10 years ago???? Quite unbelievable and since I have no idea what things are like…at least there is this guide to the best shopping places in Bangkok!

Complete with Pros and Cons of each shopping spot…AND ALSO THE FOOD!

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I mean really, you don’t just go to Bangkok just to shop…you need to eat to get the energy to shop plus food is everything. I think I live to eat rather than live to eat so it’s always important to find out about the food options.

Ok la, but if you really don’t have the spare cash to travel overseas there are lots of things to do in Singapore even though we may think it’s really small and boring, and they have a whole overflowing category of things to do in SG that are cheap or unusual. I need to go read up on some before I start complaining how boring Singapore is, oops.

thesmartlocal-homepage

Personally, I wish the content box was a bit wider, but the font and pictures are big enough so it doesn’t hamper reading!

The site is easy to navigate although I got a bit lost trying to navigate the tags and categories, plus all the drop down categories at the top…whew that is a lot of content. But even if there are a lot of articles on the website, it’s quick to read through since most are in a listicle format (which unfortunately comes off a bit gimmicky and click-bait at times). For someone like me who is trying to rediscover Singapore, or for someone who is here for the first time, I think TheSmartLocal has a plethora of articles to help us find activities to do.

Plus you know, support local mah. #SingaporePride 

xoxo,
Bernie

“This too shall pass”

…and come out as vomit. Jk, but I’ve been having so many tummy troubles recently and every time I’m back in Singapore that I am so done. I experienced my worst bout of food poisoning earlier in Feb, on Day 3 of Chinese New Year no less. At 5:30AM I was in a taxi headed to the nearest hospital and I got 2 injections before I felt better.

Today I woke up with a headache, and heaved until I puked a bit. But it was more indigestion/possible flu than actual food poisoning so after a rest and taking sips of warm water, I felt better enough for some food. The timing though – this couldn’t have come at a worst time.

Sometimes I wonder if the tummy troubles are because of different diets? I can’t recall getting food poisoning in Japan and generally I haven’t gotten sick so much until last and this year. Either I’m getting old, my system needs some rebooting detox thing or the changing diets and general bad eating habits back here in SG is being rejected by my body.

I really want to write, I’ve tried, but no words flow.

The past week or so left me with a lot of time to pass in the hospital while visiting, so I’ve been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Finished Season 7, and now caught up on Season 8. #TEAMKIMCHI, also #TeamNaomi but KIM CHI ALL THE WAY.

I also hit 1000 subscribers on YouTube earlier this month – yay! I haven’t got a time to get a proper 1000 subs celebration video up yet, so hopefully that soon too.

xoxo
Bernie

Renting a Hakama for University Graduation in Japan

In Singapore and most countries, the default graduation outfit is the gown and mortar board. However, in Japan, students more commonly wear hakama for university graduation. Hakama are widely used in a variety of situations, not just for graduation but also for sports such as Kyudo and Kendo as well as for tea ceremonies as well as other occasions.

The hakama students don for university is worn over a kimono and come in a large variety of colours in order to perfectly match the kimono. It is more common for female students to dress up in hakama, while male students prefer a suit.

hakama japanese graduation ceremony

For my graduation ceremony, I decided I was going to rent a hakama, mainly for the experience. There are a few ways to find where to rent from, and while I first went to the store my school recommended, the total bill came up to over 60,000yen (SGD$750*) which was way over budget. So after cancelling my reservation, I had to find myself a different rental service that fit all my requirements and limitations.

The search for a hakama rental service 

A quick google search of  袴レンタル brought up a variety of stores offering their services. I narrowed things down by finding the stores in my area and then checking out their packages.

The most common type of rental service is done entirely through mail. You’d choose your hakama set from their online catalogue and have it delivered to your address 2 days before your graduation ceremony. Included in the set would be instructions and the packaging to mail it back to the store the day after your ceremony.

Unfortunately, this did not work for me as I would not be in Japan till a day before the ceremony and none of my family members knew how to help me put on the outfit. I did not trust trying to figure it out on my own so that was a bust.

Stores that did provide the full service with hair, makeup and help getting dressed were either in the same $700 price range, or only had offices in an inconvenient location. I kept searching, and finally, found KIMONO-PRO.

They have a large variety of sets available for rental, averaging at 30,000yen. The only problem was that you needed to head down to their main Kyoto office if you wanted to try it on before renting. I called to make a reservation and headed over. After scrolling through pictures and choosing the set I wanted, I was allowed to choose from their available hakama and they let me try the full set on.

Satisfied with my choice, I reserved the set, which included zori, a bag and all the essentials that you needed to wear inside. It also included hair and the dressing service at Nishinomiya Kitaguchi station, which was very conveniently located on the way to my university (they also have the option to get dressed in Umeda and their Kyoto main office). After filling in my details and signing up for the ‘Anshin Plan’ (in case of any stains there would be no extra charges), I paid.

The entire process was done in Japanese, and unfortunately, their website does not have an English version.

It cost 30,800yen total (SGD$380*) in total, and they accept credit card, cash and bank transfer.

Returning the hakama is also really simple. Pack all the items up in the bag provided, bring it to the nearest mail service counter (mine was at Osaka station) and pass the provided mail slip to the counter and you’re done!

The actual day’s look

 

japanese hakama

kgu graduation hakama

hakama portrait kgu
I received lots of compliments both on the day itself and after I uploaded the photos onto my social media accounts. I loved it and felt really beautiful wearing it. The colours and prints were perfect, and that ombre hakama was to die for. It felt like the perfect outfit just for me.

The graduation ceremony itself flew by so fast and one moment I was surrounded by friends and by the next we had all said our goodbyes. I wish I could have better preserved those memories, and I will, in a future post, but wow. Four years flew by in the blink of an eye. I’m glad I decided to go for the full experience and wear a hakama to the ceremony.

I’m even more glad I cancelled my first reservation and found this one – sometimes you just don’t settle for second best.

Don’t live life with regrets and ‘what if’s.

Till the next post,

xoxo
Bernie

*exchange rates are accurate as of time of writing
Photos in this post taken by YS Photography

Best Horumon Don: Kitsuneya in Tsukiji Market

Horumon Don, Kitsuneya (2)
This is my second time to Kitsuneya in Tsukiji Market, and this time I did it right. I finally tried their Horumon Don and it finally washed the taste of regret out of my mouth. Horumon is offal, which may not sound appealing to most, but if you do try it once, make it this dish.

The way Kitsuneya does it is to stew the offal in a large pot and scoop the thick stew onto steaming hot rice and top it with a generous mountain of spring onions. I’m not a food blogger so I can’t quite describe how they cooked it, but it really was a lovely thick stew.

Everything inside was tender and the offal bits and konnyaku went wonderful with the rice and spring onions. The konnyaku (konjac) added an extra texture to each mouthful so it wasn’t just the soft tender offal bits bit also a bit of bite. Yum.

Sometimes with offal there is that organ-y taste and smell that tends to be a bit off putting, but while there was a slight taste to it, that’s where the spring onions and togarashi (chili pepper flakes) come in. I sprinkled togarashi over and in each bite had some spring onions as topping and it was perfect. It made me so happy.

The previous time I had come to Kitsuneya, following the recommendations of a Singaporean blogger, Denise and I tried their gyuudon (beef bowl) which was supposed to be the “best beef bowl in my life” but it left us with nothing but the taste of regret as everyone else ordered the horumon don while we watched and cursed our lack of research and my over reliance in that one blog post.

I found posts from other local bloggers proclaiming their love for Kitsuneya’s gyuudon to almighty levels of worship but personally I found theirs barely average.

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It’s not the typical beef bowl – the beef slices and bits fall apart and soft of crumble into bits. It’s cooked for so long that it breaks apart instantly but doesn’t have that bite a la the beef bowls from Yoshinoya, Sukiya and the like. There isn’t much texture to it but mush, and it’s definitely not something we liked. I’d give it a miss and go for cheap gyuudon from Sukiya any day.

But I’d come back for their Horumon Don, and do go early before the queue snakes till forever. Which is a general tip for all of Tsukiji, and any tourist attraction in Japan. Go early to beat the queues and grab the fresh seafood. Later in the day, the oysters and uni have been sat out for a while and aren’t as tasty.

Kitsuneya, Tsukiji

Horumon Don, Kitsuneya

I’ll be back for you one day.

Arigatou, Japan.

It is 2am on the 3rd of April when we finally get back into the flat and lug our bags in. Singapore is hot, and humid, even though the night’s 28 degree weather is cooler than usual. I am sweating, tired and nauseous from travelling, or perhaps the ill feeling is due to a different reason – the realisation that it is goodbye.

I had signed the form indicating I would no longer be returning to Japan with my student visa, and the officer punched a hole into my Resident Card. It was a finality I had known to expect but the reality of it still has not sunk in yet. Waking up in Singapore the morning after was like waking from a long dream, and I wondered why I felt like I was moving along in a slow, suspended limbo as if I had still not awoken from a spell.

I will miss Japan so much, I already miss Japan so much. It didn’t feel like the final goodbye because I had been slowly sectioning out my feelings and making each small goodbye a step toward the last one. But the day came, soon enough, yet it still doesn’t feel like a true sayonara. When will I be back? I don’t know.

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The days leading to, and following graduation were all a blur. The four years preceding seem a distant, fond memory. Japan has become part of my identity now, one which I cannot so easily forget and put past myself; one I will not.

We were there a bit too early for the cherry blossoms in Kansai, but as we moved slowly up toward Kanto’s Tokyo, sparing bunches of pink greeted us with their beauty. Japan is stunning this time of year.

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I wished I had taken more photos, more videos, stings the bitter taste of regret. On the other hand, relegating some precious moments only to memory and living in the moment made me feel free. Sometimes the most perfect pictures are the ones we create and leave imprinted in our minds.

Perhaps it is fatigue but I find it hard to complete this blog post – I had wanted to fill it with wonder and joy, with picture previews of each leg of the trip. But when I try to let the words flow off my fingers one key at a time, my eyes droop heavy and my heart sighs. It is difficult to try and sum 4 years of emotions, memories and reflection into this one post. Already in our 16 days travelling there is too much to tell. The days since I’ve been back in Singapore hold their own tales as well.

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When will I see this view again? Experience Japan in springtime and watch the petals fall? ‘I am tired’ are the thoughts that course through as I try to think of what lies ahead. Perhaps I need more time to slowly think, savor and come to terms with this chapter’s end.

There are other chapters too, that have come to an end. But new ones will begin, even if not for me, but for others. Soon, I too will have embarked on the next path.

Thank you‘ is always the most appropriate phrase I can think of in situations like these. There really are no other terms I can find to properly put things to a close.

I love Japan so much I can’t see life without having her a part of it anymore. Life wasn’t perfect there, but when is life ever perfect anywhere? We make life what we want it to be, perfect or not, we create what we call home.

Arigatou, Japan. Till we meet again.

I’ll miss you.

Studying in KGU FAQ #2: Courses Offered and Class Format

PREVIOUS FAQs: International Residence Dorm 2, My Experience Studying in KGU, Cost of Studying in Japan as a Student

I received an email asking about classes, study hours and other general questions regarding the exchange program from a prospective exchange student. I’m not an exchange student but I’ve had many friends who are/were, and have seen batch after batch enter and leave the school. Plus, the experience is generally similar except we stay 4 years while exchange students only maximum 1 year.

I’ve reproduced the entire email response, but edited for better clarity and format as well as to expand on certain points.

Courses Offered

The biggest choice is your Japanese language course track – regular or intensive. One is 4 times a week while intensive is 6 times a week. I suggest you take the regular if you are a beginner in Japanese OR if you want to not stress yourself out. Most feedback is that the intensive course has too much homework, the teachers are a bit strict with attendance etc as well.

There will be a placement test to determine which level classes they’ll place you. Most students who want to make the most of learning Japanese while in Japan tend to want to be bumped up into a higher level so they can learn more. If your main objective for exchange is to have fun and enjoy Japan and you aren’t too concerned with chalking up X number of credits, it is best to join the regular track so you won’t stress out with trying to learn too much or being too bogged down with homework.

On top of Japanese language, usually people take like 12-14 credits or so (I’m not too sure), of which 4 -6 credits is from Japanese language so essentially you only take 4-5 courses (which is about half the work load of a regular student). The courses offered to exchange students differ slightly from what full time students get (basically you can only apply to say, 30% of the number of courses actually offered, check Official Website for more details) but are the same in content. Regular students can apply to most/all courses offered to exchange students but not vice versa.

I took like an average of 10 courses a semester and managed pretty well. I sometimes had 7 essays for finals but that’s waaaaay more than exchange students have. Some courses have no papers etc so you can choose how much or how little of a workload you want.

Class Format

Typically my day started at 9am and ended ~5pm (4th period) or earlier (usually 3pm, 5th period ends 6:30pm). The day is split into 5 different periods each 1h 30min long (called gen, so first period would be ichi gen, second is ni gen and so on).

My timetables for Fall 2012 (1st year) and Fall 2014 (3rd year):

Fall 2012 Timetable

Fall 2012 Timetable (24 credits, with Japanese accounting for 4. I dropped Japanese Society due to workload and did 22 credits that semester)

 

Fall 2014 Timetable

Fall 2014 Timetable (24 credits, but I eventually took only 20 credits total that semester)

If you’re on intensive track most likely you will have 5 day school week, if regular it maaaay be possible to get a 4-day school week but it’s all up to how you schedule classes. Lunch is 12:40PM to 1:30PM, and from 10:30 to 11:00AM is ‘Chapel Hour’ where you have a break or are very welcome to attend a short church service in school.

You will have mainly other exchange students, some international students and Japanese students also join classes. I’ve had 1:1 ratios, 2:1 and 3:1 with the minority being Japanese students. But some classes see many Japanese students enrolling. Class sizes generally average about 20 or so, depending on the course. Some can drop to as low as 8-10 (or very few like 5 or less) or as many as 35. I’ve been in a class with full capacity approx 50+ students with 70% Japanese students but they were ANNOYING AF because they joined for “free credits” (not) and mainly did nothing but make noise and do their own stuff, lol.

Usually exchange students only need to pass a course to get the credits (most of their home universities only count pass/fail for exchange courses but this also varies) and if you decide to take easy courses then you have a smooth sailing 6 months/1 year.

You will get a nihongo partner or 2, in some cases, assigned to you. Basically that is just a Japanese student who is assigned to bring you around, help you get used to life in Japan/university. So that will usually be your first Japanese friend. Hanging out at the Fujita Global Lounge will get you more friends as they usually come over to say hi. So will Coffee Hour attendance where the main feature is talking to foreign students.

There will be events organized by students/circles/clubs as well as the school and external organizations. Information for these events are usually pasted on the notice board outside the CIEC office.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
Bernie

P.S do join the KGU Ryuugakusei Facebook group! Past and present Ryuugakusei, as well as Japanese students are inside so you can ask questions and meet up for events etc