Soba & Coffee

On a trip surrounding Chiba’s Boso peninsula, some friends and I stopped by JR Hama-Kanaya station to take a trip to the area’s Mt. Nokogiri via the famous Nokogiriyama Ropeway. While we are going back to the station to proceed to our next destination, we stumbled upon this cafe just a few minutes away from the station.

Soba & Coffee restaurant
The “Soba & Coffee” cafe shop

What struck me as odd and unique is its title – Soba & Coffee. It featured soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles, as one of its main offering, as well as other Japanese and western foods and beverages (click the photo above to view a larger version). A unique blend, possibly go very well between the two, especially under the hot sun.

A follow up: picking a world to live in

After completing reading parts of a work, I finally understand the “alternate world” the protagonist wandered into.

It is a never ending world, essentially a loop, one can say. The artifacts — remains of the past stayed there. Conversations between the protagonist and the related characters took place in the alternate world, which were centered on things that one couldn’t let go easily. Things that were precious to the protagonist, as if they were a source of reliance when the protagonist escapes to the alternate world.

At a latter part of the said work, the protagonist was presented an ultimatum — either to abandon the alternate world and move forward, or to remain in the alternate world and circle endlessly. He chose to move forward, and as a result, dependencies between the alternate world and the reality began to collapse. Whether the event occurred is a good thing, it was up to the reader, I assumed.

Essentially, it boiled down to this.

Rather than clinging to the past, accepting it and moving forward is the way going forward if one wishes to progress. However, easier is said than done. I caught myself into this dilemma which lasted for a long period of time. Crawling out of it isn’t easy, admittedly, but it did provided me a fresh, new perspective of a certain matter.

Wandering into the alternate

Heavily filtered image of a bridge near Keisei-Narita station.
A heavily filtered image of a bridge near Keisei-Narita station.

An eye shut is what it all takes to wander into the alternate world. No matter the boundaries and conditions one face, when you wake up, you will be brought back to the reality (the real world). And I’m not mentioning about life and death situations.

I read recently of a work depicting a scene about the protagonist wandering into the alternate world. A world where he doesn’t seem able to reach, no matter how far he walks to the horizon, as if it is never ending. A familiar voice, coming out from nowhere, reminded this protagonist that he would not be able to reach this world for some reason. What were the reason(s) behind this, I still don’t know yet.

However, this depiction reminded me multiple occasions of dreams where I wandered into the realms of alternate world, only be rudely pulled back into the reality the next day. On my way to work, I noted of the brief memories in the alternate world into my note taking app. It showed a pattern, as if I’m discovering puzzle pieces. Piecing them together might show up something, I don’t know. I haven’t yet see the dreams these days.

“Year 2000: Japan”

I was randomly searching the internet for some iconic images of Tokyo entering the new millennium after encountering a work that was released years before the year 2000. A quick search on Google Images revealed a Flickr album containing photos of this user visiting Japan in a world tour (envy!).

tkshibuya08 Shibuya Street Fashion Boots, Tokyo, Japan 2000
The “Year 2000: Japan” album by Flickr user CanadaGood G.Melle.

Many of his photos screamed 2000s (because those photos were really taken in that era!), however, I find it surprising that certain aspects of Japan haven’t changed much, like that the area of Akihabara, shinkansen bullet trains, etc.

The photos do provoke some kind of nostalgia that I do not possess as a kindergarten kid. At that time, I was still in preschool, occasionally accompanying my mother watching Japanese dramas in front of the TV during the primetime hours of 7-8pm (remember Power Office Girls?).

带着乌云的大晴天

8月。东京一带的梅雨已经下完,终于转入晴天了。尽管每一天都炎热,但是在7月几乎每天下雨和满天乌云的情况下,连续看得见蓝天白云和刺眼的阳光实在是让人欣慰。衣服的晒干的时间也变得相当短,让我觉得很高兴。

然而,在今年,尽管是夏天的蓝天白云之下,许多人的头上都挂着一片乌云。

由于COVID-19疫情持续的关系,人们在生活里也难免过得不安。已提前进入盂兰盆节假期的我,依然和往年一样过得平淡。“在此呼吁各位,尽可能限制跨县的走动,减少不必要的外出,并且继续避开三密的生活方式。”打开电视看新闻时,听得见东京都知事,县知事和市市长等呼吁人民在假期期间尽可能不回乡,平日间避开人潮多的地方,等等。在日本各地的确诊人数和病情陷入严重状态持续增加的情况之下,自由移动和旅游依旧风险很高。

人们渐渐失去某种东西时候才懂得去珍惜。

“Stay (at) home” (待在家)期间已持续好几个月。尽管情况依然严峻,但是这并无法阻止人们出门享受那久违的大太阳。

我的夏季假期正好在8月头开始,也就是日本全国(几乎)开始经历大晴天的时候。第一天的连假,我搭了几个小时的火车到县内的锯山,在炎热的天气下爬到了接近330米的山顶。

Sign of the top of Mt. Nokogiri
锯山的山顶。

既然来到了千叶县的著名圣地之一,当然也没错过了“偷看地狱”。从此处看海、蓝天、小镇和森林,觉得很舒服。由于是周末星期六的关系,自然的,游客人数也相当多。

View of Jigoku Nozoki
锯山著名的旅游胜地之一 – “偷看地狱”(地獄のぞき)

写着此文章时,盂兰盆节的假期已经进入后半。是接近调整好心情的时间了。尽管受到疫情限制的关系而不能出国,但是能借这个时候去各种大地方和小地方,这个假期可以说比起以前过得更加充实和愉快。我希望身边的人,和亲爱的读者身体健康。

Observation: Traveling outside metropolitan areas

The past few days were consecutive holidays in Japan due to the scheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics (which were ultimately postponed to 2021). As a getaway from the pandemic heavily hampered Greater Tokyo area, I travelled to parts of the Tohoku region of Miyagi, Yamagata, and Fukushima prefectures with main focus on Miyagi prefecture’s Sendai city.

I made some observation notes as a traveler who hailed from the metropolitan area (and maybe will be helpful for you who intend to travel in areas that are less populated), shown below.

  1. The number of trains available per hour greatly varies depending on location and its status (whether it is a tourist hotspot, etc.). Planning ahead is greatly recommended especially if one doesn’t want to waste time and/or at a tight schedule. The usual frequencies range from one per hour to one every 2-3 hours. It is always a good idea to factor in the departing hours if you are in a tight schedule like I was.
  2. Not all JR stations accept the use of IC cards (e.g. Suica). It is always a good idea to check the noticeboard / plaque cards, etc. placed at the departing station for the IC cards usable/covered area. If the destination station is not covered within the IC cards usable area, purchase a paper ticket (Hence, it is not the case where IC cards should always be charged beforehand in terms of using the trains!). Having living in Greater Tokyo area for the past few years, I have been completely got used to using Suica in daily transport until I find it indispensable.
  3. Certain train lines in cities do not accept the major IC cards (e.g. Suica, Pasmo) but only the local IC cards, e.g. Fukushima’s NORUCA. In this case, falling back to paper ticket is one’s safest bet without purchasing the local IC card (except if you are a frequent user).
  4. Travelling via Shinkansen bullet train still allows the use of IC cards to exit a station where Shinkansen bullet train is served, but not local trains (depending on region/area). I observed this at JR Yonezawa station where shinkansen travelers can exit the station by “tapping” to exit. Local trains, however, still rely on paper tickets for manual inspection by the train station staff.
  5. Cash, cash, cash. Cashless transactions may had become mainstream in urban areas, but in rural areas, such as town and small cities, cash is king. Get stuffed with a reasonable amount of cash whenever possible beforehand.
  6. Unplanned stops result in unexpected discoveries. Cliché, but true. I finally visited the area where NHK’s Asadora “Yell” is based at, which is at Fukushima.

I might write an elaborated post for some of the points shown in the future. Travel is always fun, but not in the case of a global pandemic ongoing.

Tokyo by train

Life Where I’m From has a video of which he shot an entire day about travelling in trains in Tokyo (albeit, at times, he wandered to neighboring Kanagawa prefecture). I first watched this years before settling down in Greater Tokyo, but I can’t help but felt amazed about the convenience of the public transport in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

“Tokyo by Train” by Life Where I’m From. Turn on CC for English subtitles.

The train (and subway) networks are powered by JR East and other private railway companies (Toei, Keikyu, Tokyo Monorail, Keisei, etc.), making not only travelling around places in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures easy, but also making travelling ahead of time almost unnecessary due to the frequency of trains per hour, where you can plan and travel in minutes interval. Try that with KTM Berhad‘s commuter (spoiler: almost impossible).

When I first settled down in a city located half an hour away from Shinjuku, I planned to jump on each station on every train line in Tokyo every weekend. The starting point of the train station hopping plan was Seibu Shinjuku‘s Hana-Koganei station. Although that plan didn’t get realized while I was living in Tokyo (of which I moved out to Chiba prefecture a few months later), it gradually happened in the summer of 2018. Tokyo metropolitan alone has a lot of train lines and train stations, and it’s impossible to visit every station without spending a lot of time (and money)!

Nevertheless, it is a lot of fun when one travels in Tokyo, especially when you live in Tokyo or are a tourist who likes to roam around. Hop on a random train line. Stop at a random train station. “Tap” out and explore the area, get lost. Fill up your stomach with a bowl of ramen or tonkatsu.

Just recently, I explored the Tokyo Sakura Tram (known also as Toden Arakawa Line) with a one-day pass, and spent half a day exploring the smaller areas in parts of Tokyo (the parts you don’t usually see if one travels by the normal trains). I might write about it someday.

Hello, happy birthday.

How are you?

With times like these, where ever you are, I hope you are fine and well. Surrounded by supportive friends, families, and an important partner by your side, I believe you are doing spectacularly well in your studies.

Ever since it happened, I never stopped pointing at myself for the reality and as the role of the root cause. Times passed, yet the scar remained there, with blood sometimes seeping out from it, hinting by the fact that time passed do not heal itself; but rather acts as a stopping gap in order to prevent the blood from gushing out from the scar.

What caused the blood to resurface again from the scar? Was it due to a reminder? An unfulfilled dream? A bad aftertaste? An unconvincing reassurance? A painful reflection? I am not sure.

In a random day when I woke up, I dreamt of an unfulfilled dream set in an isolated world with a one-way exit, with no entrance in sight. It felt so vivid, even looking back at it again today.

Rewind to February 2019 to the day when I was heading back to my home in Japan. Queueing while boarding the plane, I have spotted you amongst the crowds, despite not establishing a direct eye contact. It felt like the times before, when it was simpler. Yet, the border was still there, in plain sight.

You had changed, in a good way.

With times like these, from afar, I wish you all the best.

Happy birthday.

报复性旅游

报复性。。。

今早起来看推特时,有人转了此推文。读了以后深深感到同感。

此文简单说明什么是“报复性熬夜” – 因为在白天无法自由控制自己的时间,而选择在晚上故意迟睡来弥补白天时所失去的自由时间。进行报复性熬夜的人一般都会在较晚的时间才甘愿入睡,那就是在“报复”完以后。读了此推文,我的脑海里立即浮现了另外个词。

报复性旅游。

报复性旅游

今年由于COVID-19的关系而无法在日本黄金周(4月底~5月头)和近几个月出国旅游(尤其是到台湾),再加上前几年来到日本时没有积极出去玩,而导致今年变得特别郁闷。在地方政府,邻县政府和中央政府呼吁人们尽可能减少不必要的外出之下,想玩都得三思而行。

然而,这个月在解除了日本的紧急状态以后,各地开始恢复了人潮的现象。这个可谓是好现象,但同时也让人觉得不安:在那大量人潮,尤其是挤电车,和朋友在餐厅用餐等情况之下,自己是否会感染上此病毒呢?口罩也渐渐等成为生活上,不,安全上的其中一个重要的东西(现在出门都不敢不戴口罩)。

这个月头,在朋友的邀请之下,到邻县去爬山。星期六一早起来搭火车转好几个站到目的地,接着展开数个小时的爬山运动,让全身酸痛,可是很满足。能充分的让四肢活动起来,并且可以在不必戴口罩之下进行户外的特定活动和地方,这仿佛是对病毒打胜战了。然而,在回家的路上就已经完全打破了那个一时美好的现象。尽管如此,能在外活动,也重新调整了自己,也能看见新的景色和地方,可谓一石二鸟。

也许是被此事激发的关系,我也想要对旅游进行报复性的活动。

计划,计划,计划

过去几年没好好在日本国内旅游,自己也觉得很可惜。看着OneNote中的列单,除了台湾有详细计划,日本的本地旅游的计划都仍然处于草率的状态。笔记本页面只有在标题处写了某地方的名称,但是日期/时间等计划仍处于空白状态。我想,今年可以好好开始计划了。

二话不说,就在近期间,已经计划今年想去玩的地方,也开始看酒店,巴士的出发时间,对电车、新干线和飞机进行价钱比较等的典型的旅游计划活动。这顿时让自己更加期待和珍惜那短短的周末。在YouTube上,我也有看见特定在日本生活的外国人怎样在24小时以内攻略特定的大城市。看了好羡慕!于是,我也展开了类似计划来“攻下”日本各地的大小城市和乡村。

这几个星期的周末,我把时间花在爬山和四处走动。爬山中不仅认识了新朋友,同时也看得到去过的地方的风景(尤其是从山顶处和不同季节中看)。在四处走动的活动了,我也陆续实现了来到日本不久时所做的计划之一 – 乘坐东京的各种电车、地铁路线。

不安中进行“报复“

旅行中最大的不安是COVID-19病毒的传染。跨县旅游是无法避免,长途旅行中所乘搭的交通工具中更加无法避开此风险,尤其是乘搭较为便宜的长途巴士,或者是短时间内可以抵达目的地的飞机。东京在近期也出现更多的确诊人数(其他县也开始出现了此现象),为接下来的“报复性旅游“添增了不少变数。

巴士是否会暂停服务?国家/县政府是否会呼吁民众减少不必要的外出?会不会被禁止拜访目的地的旅游胜地或酒店?等等的疑问,也在计划中慢慢浮现。有时在想,健康比旅游在现在的情况之下更为重要,旅游被视为紧急度较低的活动,能的话应该被延迟。这些事情在风险管理中早就该被评估了吧。。。

日本现在是夏天,梅雨季节也为计划带来了相当大的影响力。倘若去游玩的当日下豪雨,该怎么办?等等的因素也不得不考虑在内。

无论如何,对于病毒的情况,我希望日本国内的情况能持续改善,也同时慢慢开放往外旅游。带着不安,警惕的进行“报复”。。。

Birthday in 2020

Hectic, sick year

This year is a hectic year for everyone. Not only one has to balance between staying safe and continuing their studies/work, one also needs to put extra effort into ensuring things ongoing remain smooth and sound.

Due to COVID-19, I was unable to travel overseas, however, I could travel domestically, albeit with self restraint being practiced. There is a love-hate affair between people who move across prefectures and those who lived in the target prefectures.

“What is your plan?”

“How do you plan to celebrate / are you celebrating your birthday?”, I was asked. Year after year, despite the cliche, I hold only multitudes of gratitude in my heart towards almost everyone I know, for they directly or indirectly shaped me today.

I read a story many years ago about a child threw a tantrum because his parents did not hold a proper birthday party for him. As I read the story, I remembered that I once hold a grudge too for not having a birthday party (my friends had those parties, and even invited people over! Theirs were a grand one — PlayStation party, eat-all-you-can buffet, playing badminton at a friend’s house’s wide backyard, etc.), yet I quickly dismissed the persistence to hold one after that.

I might not have a grand party, but I do understand the meaning behind this day. Not all days have to be grand.

Reflecting last decade

Last year, I looked back how I was shaped today. Being a character who liked to look back in the past to understand how the current events unfolded, I never failed to be amazed the number of new facts emerged as I continuously looked back. However, with some history remain sealed, I could only speculate.

Although continuous reflection is important, spending too much time in it makes it tiring as a lot of efforts have to be spent on it, especially digging, connecting, and joining the puzzle of facts together through time. I might have spent too much time in it looking back the sealed histories.

Closing

For all the wishes in Facebook, instant messaging apps, and other platforms, I sincerely thank you. I hope all of you, especially you, dear reader, can get through this pandemic period safely and smoothly.