Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fat Geisha Goes on Holiday!

明日家族とTaiwanへいきます。来週の日曜日にかえります。

Dear readers, I will going on a family holiday to Taiwan tomorrow morning and will return only next Sunday evening. So this will be my last post for November. Don't miss me too much in the meantime. Since Taiwan is a former Japanese colony, I will hopefully be able to share some interesting travel tales and tips with you upon my return. I know for sure that I will be eating non-stop during my trip, and probably come back an even FATTER geisha, God Forbid!!!!

Until next month, take good care of yourselves and have fun!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What is so Great about SMAP?

Latest promo pic for their aborted 2010 Shanghai concert

I am probably going to get stoned by SMAP fanatics just for the heading alone. But I beg you to read the whole post before doing anything drastic.

As I am typing this, I am watching a series of SMAP performances that my best friend was kind enough to lend me from her most private and valuable stash of SMAP VCDs/DVDs, all in the name of er-hem, improving my Japanese. For as long as I have known her, she has been crazy about SMAP, and I couldn't really understand why, because when I was young(er) I was very "Westernised" and preferred "ang-moh" boybands like *cough* New Kids on the Block *cough*.

Other than Takuya Kimura, the only thing I know about SMAP is that they are a VERY FAMOUS pop group that sings and they have a variety show known as SMAPxSMAP. Due to a lack of English sub-versions on the Internet (and prior to my learning the language), I have only watched a few VERY FUNNY snippets, where they cook and do all sorts of crazy skits including some hilarious parodies.

A quick history on SMAP (from Wikipedia): Originally made up of 6 members, SMAP now consisted of Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura (of course), Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (the one caught naked in public recently), Goro Inagaki and Shingo Katori. SMAP stands for SPORTS, MUSIC, ASSEMBLE, PEOPLE. (Huh??) They were formed in 1988 (!) but officially debuted in 1991. They literally grew up with a generation of Japanese, more or less, which explains the record number of obasans in their fan base.

Now, back to the VCDs I am watching. These are from the late 1990s and early 2000s. One of them contains their musical performances from various TV shows and concerts. And I cannot stop laughing (not maliciously, mind you). This is the NUMBER ONE pop group in Japan for goodness knows how long? They really cannot sing! Definitely nowhere near the league of ANZENCHITAI. As they belted out their SUPER cheesy bubblegum pop songs with gusto, they went out of tune a few times and their voices cracked in several places. Before you throw eggs at me, let me add that SMAP is no worse than the other boy bands around the world. It was just that for all the craziness they inspired, I was expecting MORE. But I guess one cannot really explain craziness stemming from hormonal reactions.

Especially when Takuya winks at the camera, or expose an ab or a nipple (this man LOVES to show off his chest), who the hell cares whether they can sing or not, right? You can sing to me all night long, baby!!!

But despite their lack of singing chops, they more than made up with their incredibly sleek dance moves and oozed charisma in SPADES. It tickles me greatly as I watch them schmooze around the stage in their droopy bell-bottom pants (one of their costumes looked to be inspired by "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves"). And their songs! OMG their songs!! My eyes literally popped out as I listened to a song titled "$10"!!!?! "You are my dynamite?" By this time I am already rolling on the floor.

Finally I understand what gets the fans all hot and bothered (besides Takuya's hot looks), and loyal after all these years (SMAP debuted when Takuya was a scrawny teenager - see pics below). Definitely not their singing, but that irrepressible exuberance that spills over each time they perform. My friend says it best when she says SMAP is not afraid to laugh at themselves (check out Shingo Katori's many cross-dressing incarnations, and any group that dares sing a song titled "$10" is definitely insane). Indeed, like overgrown boys, they make me feel silly and happy, and very very young. I guess this is the true SMAP magic.

Here are some VERY INTERESTING photos and a video I found on the Internet - for your enjoyment only. In the meantime, I will be watching those old SMAP VCDs.



Snippets from one of their latest concerts, including the infamous "$10" song. Look at the number of obasans screaming. And Takuya flashing his bod!!! Drool.

WTH - I was searching for pics and found this. When SMAP still had 6 members. Takuya looked like 12???!

Since Takuya was so adept at flashing himself at concerts, I tried googling for some sexy photos and ended up with this. Please do not arrest me for child porn. According to the blog I took it from, they were only 15!!!! 

Enough of young 'uns. This is from their show Bistro SMAP. Chef Takuya can cook me anytime!

Enough said. SMAP Ichiban!


Smap Vol.II Smap Best Selection

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Beloved Samurai T!


Today is a very special day. It is the birthday of my most beloved Samurai T, who has changed my life forever since entering the world 37 years ago. I would have been a very different woman if it were not for him - probably less contented, less confident, and definitely less happy! Marriage to him brought unprecedented peace and stability to my life. He has been with me through thick and thin, endured all my short-comings, stood by me in the worst of times.

I don't think I have said enough how much I love him. It will never be enough to express my gratitude for him being in my life. You are my one true miracle from God. Happy Birthday, my dearest Samurai. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My First Japanese Composition aka A Day in the Life of Fat Geisha

After almost 5 months of studying, I have finally achieved a level of language competency which allows me to write a kindergarten-type composition in proper Japanese. And I am most pleased to share it with my readers. (Never mind if you don't understand; just pretend it is the most wonderful masterpiece ever written.)

Fat Geisha さんの1にち

わらしわきょうのあさ8時におきました。それからパンとミルクおべました。9時から11時までネトノゲムおしました。午後12時にひるご飯お食べました。1時から3時までにほんごお勉強しました。4時にともだちにありした。映画お見ました。レスターラン出番ご飯おたべました。ジュースおのみました。9時にうちへかえりました。テレビおみました。それからほんの読みました。12時にねました。

Translation:
A Day in the life of Fat Geisha

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 8AM. Then I had bread and milk for breakfast. Between 9AM - 11AM, I surfed the Internet. At noon I ate my lunch. From 1PM-3PM I studied my Japanese. At 4PM I met my friends and we went to watch a movie. We ate dinner at a restaurant and drank juice. I went home at 9PM and watched television, and read a book afterwards. I slept at 12 midnight.

*****************

What a sense of achievement! So proud of myself!

P.S. I don't quite understand the use of the Japanese keyboard. Changes to KANJI for some words but not others. There is also no alternate お which I can use. (If there is a native Japanese reading this, please give me some advice.) Well, this has been fun anyway. I need to work much harder from now onwards, as it is getting more difficult!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Applause! We have hit 1,000 Unique Visitors!

Clap, clap. Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Particularly to friends out there who have been throwing constructive comments and praises to my way - makes me want to blog better and more interesting stuff. What started out as a simple platform to share my travel experiences to Japan with some friends who are going there for the first time this year has turned out to be much, MUCH more. But I thank those friends because  it brings me back to my first true love - writing. Long-time buddies will probably remember the "novels" I had written in secondary school to entertain them. And all those scraps of paper flying around class with my short stories and "emo" poems. There weren't such a thing as "blogs" then, nor Facebook, nor Twitter. Everything was painstakingly written down.

Of course, having 1,000 visitors to this website is practically "nothing" when compared to the tens of thousands of hits PER DAY enjoyed by top bloggers in this country and around the world. Nevertheless I am very grateful to be given an outlet to entertain friends and strangers as well as vent my thoughts and emotions, which are constantly churning inside my head, desperately trying to get out.

Who knows what will happen down the road, and how this blog will evolve? I look forward to finding out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Most Faithful Dog in History - Hachiko

Hachiko continues to wait for his master at Shibuya Station till this day

As one emerges out of the bustling Shibuya train station in Tokyo (from the Hachiko Exit or Hachiko-guchi), the first sight that greets you is a life size bronze statue of an Akita dog, stoic and gleaming under the sun, like a guardian watching over the thousands who choose to meet everyday at the square where it stands. Across the statue on the station wall, colourful motifs of a playful Akita dog bring cheer even on the most dreary day.

Akita dog motifs on the station wall

Unless you have been living in a hole, or absolutely hate animals, you would probably have heard the touching story of Hachiko who, following the sudden death of his master, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno in 1925, continued to wait faithfully at the Shibuya Station everyday at the SAME time for the next 10 years until his death in 1935. It is all the more astonishing when one realises that Hachiko had only been with Ueno for two years before his passing. This remarkable story of unwavering loyalty and friendship between man and hound has been made into several films including one by Hollywood starring Richard Gere (which I refused to watch since I KNOW it would turn me into a slobbering mess). I remembered watching the 1987 Japanese film as a child and the ending where Hachiko finally died and they showed his heavenly reunion with his master made me bawl hysterically.

This tale never fails to break my heart and bring me to tears (yes just thinking about it makes me teary) when I thought about how the dog would sit there day after day waiting fruitlessly for a beloved friend who would never return.  On our very first trip to Tokyo, I insisted to Samurai T that we had to make a pilgrimage trip to Shibuya, not for shopping at Shibuya 109 (honestly that was a "by the way" thing), but to pay our respects to Hachiko. His stuffed and mounted remains are now at the National Science Museum in Ueno, which was unfortunately closed during our visit.

 A rare photo of Hachiko, in his later years

Hachiko with train station staff a year before he died

I lost my beloved dog of 15 years to old age a few months ago. Till now, I could still feel his presence around me on many occasions. Sometimes I thought I could smell him, and could literally feel him in my arms. But I would prefer the dog to go before me rather than the other way around. The pain may be hard to bear, but at least as humans we understand that they are gone. Dogs, intelligent as they are, are unlikely to comprehend loss, and will feel traumatised and abandoned. I am glad though that Hachiko had friends at the train station who would feed and accompany him, but even they could not replace the master who never came home again.

See you in doggie heaven, Waggie

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Bus Transportation System of Kyoto

The Fat Geisha needs to lose weight, but she is too lazy to get off her butt to exercise. She REALLY hates to exercise - all that sweat, URGH! She has been controlling her food intake to no avail, no thanks to the cursed low metabolism of old age. To exacerbate the situation, blogging is such a fattening activity, since all one does is SIT and type. Of course I can try sitting without a chair, like a cute Japanese ad I once saw, so this is what I am doing right now - let's see how many calories I lose, or if my legs will collapse before I finish this post.

Back to serious business. I have mentioned a while ago that I would discuss a little about the bus transportation system of Kyoto, since unlike other Japanese cities, the best way to travel around from site to site is via the good old bus, and not the ubiquitious trains.

Do NOT be fooled by the maps you have downloaded online which makes Kyoto look like a small walk-able city, where sites are near to one another. LIES, all lies!!! I was sure fooled - "Wah, Kyoto City is in grid formation, and the places are all located in close proximity, so it will be a piece of cake to navigate around!" I have never walked SOOOO much in my life, and got lost a couple of times too, despite my super navigational skills. (Yes, it was a good way to lose weight, but I was just SO freaking tired at the end of everyday.) So, get it into your head - Kyoto is a VERY BIG CITY.

Now, if you are kiasu (means "scared to lose" in Singaporean speak) like us, and would like to cover as much ground as possible in one day since Kyoto is literally overflowing with treasures, then I highly recommend that you purchase the all-you-can-travel one day Kyoto City Bus Pass, which cost only 500 Yen (SGD 8). This is a steal when taking into consideration that each bus ride on the city bus cost you 220 Yen PER RIDE, regardless of the distance. During our stay, we could take up to 6 bus rides a day, so you can do the math. If we were tired we would take the bus even if it was one or two stops away without worrying about extra costs. In addition, the distance between certain stops could be REALLY FAR, like a 30 to 45 minute walk. :P

The buses are all numbered and there are about a hundred buses (I think) piling different routes. Depending on where you are and your final destination, you may need to make transfers. Hence the first thing to do upon your arrival in Kyoto is to grab the bus guide which will list down the routes and bus numbers, and even the bus stops of each route. The main bus terminal is at Kyoto JR Station, and you can choose to start your journey there if you prefer.

Like the trains, the buses run punctually like clock-work. I don't know how they do it, but at each bus stop, you will see the schedule of each bus on the information board to the MINUTE, and they will inevitably arrive at your bus stop at the stated time, not a minute early or late. (Like, why can't we do it in Singapore, hallo???) Their precision allows you to plan your time, so if you are at the bus stop too early, you can run to the nearest convenient store for a snack without worrying your bus will arrive earlier and zoom off before the scheduled time. How wonderful are the Japanese, you tell me!

All the buses are clean (as expected), with few seats which are invariably occupied by the old folks. One alights the bus by the rear and disembark at the front, where you either show your pass, or pay up your fare to the bus driver. For non-Japanese speakers worried about missing their stop, each bus has an automated broadcast system to announce each stop, and also a route display panel in the bus showing the stops. I also LOVE how environmentally conscious they are: the drivers will ALWAYS switch off the engines at traffic lights and bus stops, to avoid unnecessary gas emission. Are they great or what?!

The Kyoto buses are a good way to see the city. They may get confusing sometimes (especially when it comes to transfers) but they are reliable, affordable and fun. (And you get to improve your map reading skills after awhile.)

P.S. I sat back down on a real seat after the second paragraph.

Samurai T consulting the bus guide and the info board at a Kyoto Bus Station.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Flower Boys of Japan

Astonishing. Was it because my subject was on beautiful Japanese women that this site had the largest number of page views in a single day since its inception? I guess it attracted men to click on the link as well - hehe. So the old adage that "Sex Sells" still applies. After all, travel posts only attract serious travellers doing their research. Recently, Blogger included a new function that allows us to see very detailed traffic statistics to our websites. So now I know that I get visitors from countries like the US, Hong Kong, Japan and get this, Saudi Arabia. How cool is that?!

But I've got to be fair. Since I have done my part in raving about Japanese women, I must dedicate one post to the men as well. Despite my previous grouses about the lack of good looking men on the streets, we must not forget that Japan is the birthplace of the flower boys, a trend sparked off by the immensely popular shojo manga, Hana Yori Dango or Boys Over Flowers, which was later made into many live action dramas. Of course, the Japanese F4 were quickly trumped by their Taiwanese and Korean counterparts, who were, in all honesty, significantly hotter. But still, they were the trend-setters.

The Japanese F4

So what exactly are the traits of the "Flower Boy"? The following are my own opinions, so don't brick me if you disagree. 

1. Flower boys are generally metrosexual. Many look androgynous. More pretty than handsome.
2. Long wavy hair is almost always a must. Colour and highlights too. Hair that is often more beautiful than a lady's.
3. Often tall, lanky or skinny, and pale. Being tanned is not very in, as it destroys the skin texture. Kissable complexion.
4. Muscles are not necessary but will be good if the body is toned - but no bulk please!
5. Make-up is not evil - foundation is good, occasional eye liner is cool, some lip gloss or lip stick too (particularly for entertainers).
6. Die, die must be fashionable. Nothing is too loud. Can carry off leather pants or white pants and white shoes with panache.
7. Preferably rich - how else to sponsor such a major transformation?
8. And of course, oozing with x-factor and sex appeal. How else to attract girls (and sometimes guys??).

Note: There are of course a lot of half-past-six flower boys who fulfil only a smattering of the above criteria, and trust me, if you cannot carry the look, you will turn out DISGUSTING. But now let us look (and drool) at the successful flower boys.

Of course, the original flower boy I can think of is our beloved Takuya Kimura, who blossomed from a flower boy to a flower man.

Hallo Hottie! Delectable at all times

And then there is Hideaki Takizawa, who was at his hottest flower boy status at 17 in the show Majo No Jouken, but has since lost his glorious lustre with age. 

Such fresh meat then, but age is not so kind to him
(You can check out google if you want to see his recent pics)

Then we have Mokomichi Hayami - who is he, you ask?

THE ABSOLUTE BOYFRIEND
(Watch the show if you haven't already)

I am not too sure if he is considered a "flower boy", or maybe "flower uncle" is a better description, but what the hell I like him so I shall add him here as well, the wonderful, brilliant, and sexy Masaharu Fukuyama - Old but still hunky in every way.

And the obasan in me starts screaming......

The latest flower boy to emerge in recent years is Kazuya Kamenashi - who is the poster boy for the brooding, eye-liner-ed flower boy. Some say he is the new Takuya.

Ok, he is smiling here, but usually he's not. :D

I must reiterate again that I do not see successful flower boys floating around the streets of Japan. Rather, many "salarymen" uncle types and young punks trying to look hot but failed populated the places I went to.

On a separate note, my dear Samurai T is nothing like a "flower boy", which means that he also finds it difficult to buy clothes in Japan, where the fashion is funky to say the least. Of course there is also the question of size, since his shape is bulky, stocky (and sometimes fat - I think like a real Samurai from the old days) and un-flower boy-like. So the poor man is often relegated to haunting the aisles of Uniqlo, with its range of more sensible clothing.

And so ends my discussion on Japanese flower boys. Now time to get all my overworked hormones in check.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beautiful Japanese Women = Excellent Japanese Cosmetics?

I have been telling my Japanese class buddies recently that if I could go back in time and meet my 18 year-old self again, I would advise the then ignoramus to go for cosmetic surgery, to hell with any pain that may come. (This is ironic though in view that I am still trying to convince myself to go for Lasik NOW.)  I have seen how cosmetic surgery has transformed so many female stars (particularly the Korean ones) from plain fugly girls to drop dead gorgeous women. Of course, it is irrelevant now that I am old and married, but given another chance, I think I would LURVE to morph into a hot geisha - first by creating a bridge for my nose and sharpening the tip, second by sharpening my chin, and then lasering off my skin (get it ALL OFF!!!) for a baby smooth complexion.

One of them, who is also my best friend, counselled against such drastic (and painful) measures, and suggested instead that make-up can effect incredible changes to one's looks. Although I am as vain as the next female, I still don't know much about make-up (my daily routine takes only 15 minutes - slap on bbcream, blusher, line brows, apply lipstick). Up until today, I can't even line my eyes properly without looking like a panda, or apply eye-shadows correctly without looking like a social escort (God must have known so he gave me bigger eyes and more prominent double eyelids - but dang my poor eyesight.) 

In any case, her comments reminded me of all the beautiful Japanese girls I have come across in Japan, wonderfully made-up and elegantly (or weird, if they were in cosplay costumes) dressed, strutting down the crowded streets of Tokyo as if those were their personal runways. If there was any one place in the world where one could drown in envy and self pity, Japan would be it. (An aside: it is tragic that the number of Japanese hunks are nowhere near the numbers of hot chicks. If you are expecting to bump into a Takuya look-alike at the train stations, you would be sorely disappointed, like I was.)

But the secret of all these gorgeous women was unveiled to me one day when, on the Tokyo Metro to Shinjuku, I saw a young Japanese lady in all her full unmade-up glory, before proceeding to transform herself into a stunning Kawaii goddess over 10 subway stations. Frankly, I had trouble dis-lodging my jaw from the floor afterwards. To say that she was plain and that I would never give her a second glance was a gross understatement. And how she looked after piling on the make-up she had hidden inside an enormous tote bag was like seeing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And achieving the new look (which includes eye liner, fake lashes, etc) in under 20 minutes on a MOVING train spoke volumes of her make up skills. I think I have never stared so blatantly at one person in public in my life. Thank God she was too engrossed in her routine to notice.

Since I was too stunned to secretly take pictures of her, I found something on the Net to approximate the major transformation I saw:

Sorry this was from Taiwan TV but it was like she had an eye transplant, literally.

Which leads me to the second point that the Japanese cosmetic industry is AMAZING. Even though yours truly only use the most basic of cosmetics tools, I am agog by the range and variety of Japanese skin care and cosmetics, which can be found almost ANYWHERE. Walk into a pharmacy and you will be greeted by rows and rows of brightly packaged cosmetic products (And I am not talking about Shiseido or Kanebo here). Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku has a floor dedicated to Japanese cosmetic products alone, and I was greeted by probably 50 brands and types of fake eyelashes, eye liners, etc along just one aisle. To top it off, they are extremely affordable - all the more to tempt you into splurging like there is no tomorrow.

A typical Japanese beauty from a beauty magazine scan

Amidst the gazillion brands fighting for your Yen in the market, there are a few interesting ones that have caught my attention. One of them is Yojiya of Kyoto (www.yojiya.co.jp) , founded in 1904, and most famous for its range of facial oil blotting paper which I have carted loads home. Yojiya also has many natural skin care products like papaya facial wash powder, or seasonal hand creams made from sakura. I love how Yojiya is a blend of the traditional and the modern. The Yojiya store I went to at Gion, Kyoto was brightly lit, beautifully designed, and PACKED of course with beautiful women.

A sample of Yojiya products with traditional packaging

There are still many other brands of Japanese cosmetics that I have yet to uncover, but I am totally sold on idea that the beautiful women of Japan are a direct result of their wonderful cosmetics and skin care products. Ok, let me go blot my face with the Yojiya rice paper. I feel more beautiful already.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Introducing....Fat Gisaeng

Gosh, it is already November! And I am still having the "blogger's block". Or maybe I am just feeling too lazy to write a proper travel post - it is actually a lot of work to make the posts interesting (and funny), and so much time is spent on checking grammar and spelling!!! Anyway, writers must move with their urges, and I have none at the moment. So, urge me, readers. Ha!

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice I have added a new page titled "Fat Gisaeng's Reviews". Going with my internal flow and the need to express my overwhelming love for Korean dramas, I have decided to blog my reviews on my favourite dramas, especially those that have made me obsessive and psychotic. I am not too sure how a new page works (e.g. can I put multiple posts or just one?), but I would not waste my time (and yours) by blogging about the other 90% of nonsense that I watch. I have actually reviewed quite a few dramas on my other private blog, but it is such a pain to maintain 2 blogs at the same time, so let's see how my new twin turns out.

My current obsession is "Sungkyunkwan Scandal", and I have just finished the final episode. So just let me get rid of my hangover, and a review of that marvellous show (watch it! watch it! watch it!!!) should be out soon.

Fat Geisha - Out! (Need to change out of my kimono to a hanbok.)

*************************************
(4 November 2010)

Drats! The hanbok has to wait. I just realised that an additional page is just that - ONE page, and not for multiple blog posts. Which means that I either have to 1) create another blog (God No!!) or 2) just review K-dramas on a Japanese themed blog, which will be like Korean stars singing Japanese songs, or is it the other way around??

Anyway, let me mull this over a bit more. In the meantime, I think I've got inspiration for another post.