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Shanghai 2016

Shanghai has always been good to me. I have yet to encounter the smog that supposedly plagued the city. This was because whenever I was there the pollution producing factories were, I was told for one reason or another, shut down.

Explore

Even though I was there for work, I had the weekends to explore the streets of the city. Like all great cities in the world, Shanghai has got everything; New, old, and things that are a fusion of cultures and time.

 

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Walking through the alley houses reminded me of the time my colleague and I rented an amazing Airbnb in Jing’An in 2015. None of the below seems like they are listed on Airbnb though.

 

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Visit

Power Station of Art is one place you should visit, if contemporary arts is your thing. The collection of art there is huge and well-curated, plus the place is huge. You can easily spend 2-3 hours there.

The only problem is that it is a bit out of the way, but there is always Uber or, if you have a China mobile number, 滴滴.

 

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Mix Paper is one-third of the hipster enclave know as Mix Place near Xujiahui (rough Google Maps location). It has a good range of art books, i must say, and there is a nice cafe too, if you want to chill out for a while.

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Brought a colleague and friend to M50 Art Industrial Park since they haven’t been there and I did. My favourite thing there is a cafe, called Undefine, where it is always a great place to get good espressos.

 

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Shanghai Natural History Museum is pretty impressive. Quality of the content is comparable to the one in New York, however the taxidermy, imho, could be tad better. Too bad we did not have much time and missed out a bulk of the exhibits. Thus, the lack of photos.

 

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Check out other posts of my trips to China! Only if you want to, of course. No pressure.

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Omotesandō

Easily identified by the two rows of Japanese elms, Omotesandō is also home to the Tadao Ando designed, and highly controversial, Omotesandō Hills, as well as many other extravagantly designed fashion flagship stores.

 

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Omotesando Koffee

One of the best coffee you can get in Tokyo. After years of being a pop up, it has finally closed shop. But being a pop up, Omotesando Koffee have relocated to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, there are still two Koffee in Japan you can go to; Toranomon Koffee in Tokyo itself and another in Kyoto.

 

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Back Streets of Omotesandō

I get confused a lot when I am in the exploring the back streets. These photos may not be exactly Omotesandō, but it is around there, I guess.

 

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Visvim

I really liked Visvim until it grew too mainstream.

 

 

Check out other posts of my trips to Japan! If you want, of course. No pressure.

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Harajuku

Some people say Harajuku is a movement, and some say it is a type of girl. Or, perhaps no one ever said any of those things. With fans like Gwen Stefani, I am not surprised if people have the impression that Harajuku is the area between Takeshita Street and where the cosplayers end. Plus, Google isn’t doing any good at dispelling such a perception either. But, for sure, Harajuku is one poorly defined district of Shibuya for tourists like me.

Takeshita Street

As an address, Harajuku doesn’t seem to exist at all. Basically, it is described as an area in Shibuya between the Harajuku Station to Omotesando Station, specifically, Jingūmae 1 chōme to 4 chōme. That is one huge area to cover and where to start but Takeshita Street itself.

 

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There are plenty of affordable fashion that both teenagers, and people who think they are still teenagers, love.

For those who enjoy deep fried snacks, Takeshita Street has one of the three Calbee Plus in Tokyo where you can find freshly fried Calbee potato chip. There are plenty of flavours, including ones with soft serve ice-cream, to choose from.

 

 

 

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Harajuku is, of course, more than Takeshita Street, and the crazy goth and school kids who hang out around there. Along with Cat Street, certain areas such as Omotesando and Yoyogi Park, overlap part of the Harajuku too.

Beams

One of my favourite retailers, Beams, a very popular Japanese multi-label retailer, originated in Harajuku. This explains why Beams have all their brands, such as Beams T, Beams Boys, etc, situated along Harajuku side of Meiji-Dori. Every time I am here, I will make sure I checked them out to see what is in season. They are one of the few places I know that stock Remi Relief, and I have, so far, four of their super comfy and fade-able basic pockets cotton t-shirt.

 

Menswear Heaven

 

 

Shoes galore!

 

 

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Shopping Alleys

There are a lot more to shop in the alleys behind all the Beams stores. Very much the rest of Shibuya, these alleys are filled with local and foreign cult brands that might be the next big thing and, as well as, other established local retailers like United Arrows, Atmos or Chrome Hearts.

 

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Streamer Coffee Company

If you are around that area, make sure you give Streamer Coffee Company a try. This outlet is hard to miss; it’s a container stacked building.

 

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Watari Museum of Contemporary Art Street Art

In 2013, JR did a beautiful mural on the wall of Watari Museum of Contemporary Art and I just had to see it. Too bad the museum itself is closed on that the day I was there. Across the street, there were more street arts, presumably, in conjunction with the Watari showcase.

 

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Check out other posts of my trips to Japan! If you want, of course. No pressure.

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Kamakura 2014

The first time I visited Kamakura, it was Spring 2013 and was wet. In 2014, I came back to Kamakura, with my entire family, during its Fall season and it was a beautiful day.

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Kamakura is one of the perfect places to visit when you are in Tokyo with your old folks. Plenty of sights to see, and, even though with a good transport system, very walkable. Like I mentioned in my first Kamakura post, this time round I started the visit at the Kitakamakura Station and went to Engaku-ji, one of the top five Zen Temples in Kamakura, that was just right next it.

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As you can see, not only simply beautiful, Engaku-ji, a Japanese national treasure, is also quite large.

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After a short walk on a chilly, yet sunny, autumn morning, we reached Kenchoji. Kenchoji, another designated national treasure, is supposed to be THE number one Zen Temple in Kamakura. It was built on the side of a hill, and on top of the hill you can even have a good view of Mount Fuji.

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Prototype for comic characters such as Astro Boy and Goku, I am sure.

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Behold! Mount Fuji.

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The people that were killing me slowly during the trip. I kid, I love these people. Yeah, right. No, seriously I don’t want to kill them.

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There were enough to shop and eat as well on our way to our next stop: Kamakura Station.

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Before that, a chance meeting with Wang Zai’s long distance relatives. The owners were very friendly and doubly so when I showed them photos of Wang Zai. Could tell my dad missed Wang Zai as much as I did, or maybe even more, by the way he played with Wang Zai’s long distance relatives.

After some street food and a Tonkatsu lunch, we continued our way to Kamakura Station to get on a train to Hase-dera. We saw the figurine of a frog again. This time in a Santa Claus get up. From the pieces of information I got from googling, I gathered that frog is a play on the Japanese word “kaeru” which means return as well.

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Hase is a nice old town. We arrived at about 3 plus and it was almost sundown. Coming from a country near the equator where there is pretty much just one season, having to face the day ending at around 4 sucks. But, there I was at Hase and Great Buddha again.  The mood was just amazing.

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If you ever need to get out of the craziness that is Tokyo for a while, Kamakura is really one of the side trips I would recommend.

 

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Kamakura & Enoshima 2013

In the Spring of 2013, I met up with a couple of friends, husband and wife, who were traveling in Tokyo at the same time, and they suggested that I must visit Kamakura. Which I heeded and did not regret.

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There are two ways you can see Kamakura; you either start from Kamakura Station or from Kitakamakura Station. For my first trip, I took the first option of starting from Kamakura Station. I don’t recommend this route unless you like going back and forth between what I think are the two main shrines: Kōtoku-in (where the infamous Great Buddha is, as noted in the photo above) and Kenchoji Temple (the oldest temple in Kamakura).

Tip: Go for the second option, the option I took the second time around, and start your journey with Kenchoji Temple which is just next to the Kitakamakura station and walk all the way down to Hase.

Once there, the hilly terrain is apparent. Together with the mountains that surrounded the city, made Kamakura a natural fortress. In fact, partly because of its natural environment, Kamakura was even once the capital of Japan albeit for a very short period of time. Kamakura is well known for its Buddhism and Shinto shrines as well, so it is as historical as it is zen.

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On my way to Kōtoku-in, I met this cat. I love walking through alleys and peek into houses everywhere I travel. These walks/peeks gave me so many insights on how differently people live in different countries as compared to Singapore.

 

Kōtoku-in

The serenity of a Buddhist temple was something I enjoyed even back at home. At Kōtoku-in, the 700+ year-old statue of the Great Buddha or Daibutsu sits in the middle of a beautiful garden with mountain and the sky as a backdrop. Very minimal, very zen. Om.

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Hase-dera

Next, Hase-dera. Hase-dera houses one of the biggest wooden Kannon (or Guan Yin) statues in the Japan. Legend has it that a monk, all the way in Nara, carved two identical statues from a single tree, and dropped one of them into the sea. This was so that two karmic forged temples can be built. One in Nara and, of course, another in Kamakura where the sea, finally, washed it on its shores. We were not allowed to take any photo of the statue though.

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At Hase-dera, I saw another cat. A grumpy looking one too.

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The weather wasn’t as great as I hoped for as one can tell from the photos. However, for my second visit a year later with my family, it was a much better experience.

 

Enoshima

From Hase, I took a tram, by the Enoshima Electric Railway, down to Enoshima. Enoshima is a tiny island with a lot of street food that are littered along the way to a few shrines that are up on top of a hill.

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Collectively, they are called Enoshima Shrine.

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Apparently, you can see Mount Fuji from here. It was there… somewhere past all the fogs and clouds that prevailed that day.

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I saw some cat figurines that I did not buy.

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And, there was also a beach.

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Hachimangu Shrine

After visiting Enoshima, my final stop was Hachimangu Shrine. I took a tram straight back to the Kamakura Station where people were keen to take photos of the tram and, most importantly, a figurine of a frog. I have often observed in some train stations a figurine of a frog as seen below. From the pieces of information I got from googling, I gathered that frog was a play on the Japanese word “kaeru” which meant return as well.

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From the train station, I walked to the Hachimangu Shrine next. Even if it was not the most perfect weather, walking from the station to the shrine during cherry blossom was highly enjoyable. The path towards the shrine was beautifully layered with cherry blossoms and ginkgo trees and people were just hanami-ing.

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Japanese pets are always clean, well-dressed, fluffy, and traveled in style… in a pram for some reason. It was hard to resist to take photos of them.

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In my humblest opinion, Kamakura was like a little Kyoto. Definitely, a very good side trip to take when in Tokyo. I returned to Kamakura in Autumn 2014 when the weather was a lot more lovely. Do read about it here.

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Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market is one of those things you must see in Tokyo, Japan, despite its declining stature as the provider the most overpriced bluefin tuna. Sure, it is the biggest fish market in the world. Yes, the auction is said to be quite an experience to watch. And, yes, until March 2015, it is probably the last time you will be able to catch the auction at Tsukiji before it makes way for some prime real estate development. But, it is really worth waking up in the wee hours of the morning just catch a few minutes equivalent of Singapore’s Hungry Ghost Festival auction? I think so, since I do like to watch the Hungry Ghost Festival auction too. Continue reading “Tsukiji Fish Market”

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Bandung: It Might Just Happen Again

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Even though, this trip was for work, coming to Bandung fulfilled a small part of a promise I made to myself; Visit more cities around my region (South East Asia). I was there for 3 weeks with a exception of a weekend back in Singapore for a wedding. Apart from the client’s office and the cafe around the hotel, I didn’t managed to see much, having only one weekend to do some sightseeing. I did ate a lot though.

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Ueno: Exploring in the Rain. Mostly.

Ueno is one of my favourite area of Tokyo. When you walk around Ueno, you could see, and feel, the layers of the time gone by in Tokyo. In Ameyoko, where you can find a market of fresh food and world-class denim and workwear, it felt like time was frozen in the 80s. At the same time, the train station’s exterior remains relatively unchanged since 1932. And, on the main road, parallel the raised railway tracks, you can find your modern architectures so ubiquitous in urban Tokyo. (more…)