I love checking out local one-of-a-kind cafes when I'm travelling. This one's called Slunicko and screamed retro! We found it on the main shopping stretch in Nara.

This little boy ran in before his mother and sisters. They had reserved the seats beside us. Don't you just love how his dressing fits in with the cafe decor?

Even the china and utensils were so pretty. All the cups and plates had different designs.

Lots of yummies in this. I don't know if it's my imagination, but the corn soup tasted especially good in the wooden cup and spoon. I'm determined to buy some of these wooden cups and bowls back.



Asuka is the kind of place that looks very good in the guidebooks, but when you're actually there, can't really seem to find anything to see. The place was supposed to be the center of the Asuka era, roughly from around A.D500s to 700s. We made a side trip there from Nara on the second day, but even looking at the photos now, I still can't really remember exactly what we saw. So if you're planning a trip to Nara, and Asuka is somehow listed on your guidebook, my advice is... ...give it a miss (unless you're really really into the countryside).

I remembered it was a nice warm day though, we walked a lot and there were a lot of fields. Took a lot of photos (even though there was nothing!), we saw orange trees and had "purple rice" for dinner. The place is supposed to be famous for them.

Today in Minneapolis>>
Lots and lots of snow today! I was out walking and killed a few rows of film. Will get them developed and uploaded after I return to Tokyo this weekend^^



Temples and deer that is. They do have some really beautiful architecture there though. The red Kasuga Shrine with the rows of metal lanterns is my favourite.


Arguably the most famous symbol of Nara, these shika (read deer) roam freely in the Nara park. Like a true Japanese deer they actually bow to you for food. They understand simple hand gestures, like open palms held up means "no more food!". They're so tame they'll let you pet them but get them overexcited (especially if you have one of those shika senbei or deer crackers that they love in your hand), they can also butt, kick or bite you.

As the legend goes, a mythological god came to Nara one day to protect the city when it was newly built in the Heijo-kyo era, and he came on a beautiful white deer. And that's why their image is now on buses, sewers, street signs, key-chains, food packaging, everything. 

To be honest, I went kind of gaga over them. I mean, who can not love these animals with the sweet bambi eyes? My friend B and I really had fun looking out for them around the city.

Today in Minneapolis>>
HC was off early this morning to catch his flight, Minneapolis->LA->Tokyo->Singapore. Unfortunately LA was as far as he got. The weather here has been terrible and his flight from Minneapolis airport was delayed which made him miss his connecting flight to Tokyo, so now he's holed up at the Radisson in LA until tomorrow. 

On Saturday, the temperatures dipped below zero, and there was freezing rain which caused the streets to glaze over. We were out and by evening the sidewalks were all frozen over and we were slipping and sliding all the way back to the hotel. The cars were all skidding too and the news reported over 400 crashes across the state. The airport was also closed and airplanes couldn't land. The city is apparently well equipped to deal with snow but not sleet. It was quite a mess.

I was in all day today after checking the weather report (wet with the air at -7c, windchill -15c), no way I was making my way out. Tomorrow I'm hoping to go to the museum and I've got my grand strategy all planned out. I'm going to tell the bellboy in the lobby where I'm going, run out and hop into the cab as it pulls up, and then make a mad dash in when it stops at the museum doors.



Putting this up while waiting for HC to get back from work. We're all packed and will be moving out from Mankato to Minneapolis tonight. It's really windy out but I wanted to explore the little hills some distance away from our hotel so I zipped up my coat and went out for a long walk. Saw more cute houses, a school, bunch of squirrels on a berry tree with their bushy tails up, a husky playing about on the ice. It looked happy. I wish people would stop bringing the poor dogs into Singapore. It's like wearing a thick fur coat that you can't take off in the heat and it's cruel.

I also love how many of the houses have these little bird houses hanging in their front yards, where they leave out food for the birds. That's going to be the first thing I'm going to buy if I get to live in a house one day. If ever.

Oh about the funny story. We came back last night from dinner, groaning from the gigantic potions of onion rings and ribs and chips, when we found a little note slipped under our door. Here's exactly what it said.


I have overheard you a couple of times in the last few days,
and I was curious what language it is.

Just curious.

Neighbor in 607


We were a bit embarrassed at first that someone could hear our "hahahas" and our nonsensical jokes. But we decided to reply him (or her) in the end. So we wrote a short note back saying that we're from Singapore and we speak a unique language called "Singlish". "It's mainly English mixed with a bunch of words from Chinese, Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay", and we told him to wiki it if he's interested.

Just a silly story actually but we're proud to have done our little bit in spreading the virtues of our "national language" *lol*

Okay, HC's back. Gotta go.



More from Nikko.


Momiji actually refers to the maple leaves when they turn colour in autumn. There's a saying in Japanese that the momiji is like a tiny baby's hand. That's probably because the Japanese maple has much smaller leaves than its counterparts in other countries, making it look really delicate and cute. Nikko is colder than Tokyo so when we went we were lucky to catch the leaves in their fall colours already. We didn't have time to venture down to the Lake Chuzenji area as it was a day trip but the trees near the temples were pretty enough.



Just came back from a walk around the neighbourhood in downtown Mankato, and thought I'll upload some Japan photos while I defreeze in front of the radiator. Temperature's hovering around zero to minus here, and the people are wearing next to nothing, crazy. I hate long johns so I usually do without them, and I was expecting to be frozen but surprisingly my Muji jacket and Uniqlo sweater were keeping me warm and toasty even after an hour and half outside. If you want something cheap and good I highly recommend them.

It's a really small town with hardly anything for sightseeing, but I had fun looking at the cute houses and the few churches they have. Took a few polaroids which came out with an interesting tint, probably because of the chemicals reacting with the cold air. 

It's been around 10 years since I've been to the States, I've forgotten how huge everything is, the streets, the buildings, even the milk cartons in the supermarket. It's quite a shock after minuscule Tokyo.

Taking a nap and then out for dinner. Will upload more photos tomorrow. 

From top
4.5.6>> Yoyogi Stadium



Tadaima is probably the best way to describe how I felt about going back to Tokyo this time. Wandering around the all too familiar streets, taking the crisscrossing railway, going to my favourite cafes made me feel like I've never left. It's probably somehow showing on the outside too because I've been stopped for directions several times by the locals this trip, which made me laugh inwardly.

Tokyo is probably by far not the prettiest city I've seen, in fact it's full of contradictions and can be downright crazy at times. I know Japanese who don't like the place too, preferring to live in other parts of the country, but I think I'll always love it there. There's too many good memories attached to the place.

From top
1.2>> Ginza
3>> Shibuya Station
4>> Ikebukuro Station


These are going to be the last of the photos from Stockholm for a while. It's funny to be uploading these in my hotel room in Minnesota. I'll be here for around 2 weeks with HC as he's here for work. The past 2 weeks I spent in Tokyo while in transit and it's been great. My brother was there for the first half and then a good friend, B from Hong Kong flew in to join me for the second and we've been busy sightseeing and overeating *lol* Yes, I've been having quite a wild time being jobless.

Well, since time and money seems to be so mutually exclusive and I would never be able to take such a long trip if I'm working, might as well enjoy myself while I can. Have some rolls developed from Japan, will be uploading them soon!