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How do you measure a year: 2018 – My TOP 18 achievements, life lessons, and other pot pourri.

“Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes – how do you measure,
measure a year?”

2018 – My TOP 18 achievements, life lessons, and other pot pourri.

1. I ran a full marathon. That’s right, all 42.195km of it. Tokyo Marathon – check.

2. I swam a fricking channel with a team (both swimmers and crew) of amazing people. It took us 18.5 hours to swim 42km from Honshu to Hokkaido (ie the Tsugaru channel). In 18-21 degree water. That’s teamwork, grit and insanity right there.

3. I took up hiking. Hiking for me is therapeutic and cathartic. I hiked lots this year. (It’s cheaper than therapy).

4. I like to try and visit one new country a year. This year I went to Belgium – the home of waffles, fries, beer and chocolate – a gastronomad’s paradise. No regrets at all going to Belgium, although the waistline begs to differ.

5. I swam over 300km in total this year. A lot. But not quite enough at the same time.

6. Tiger Balm patches are the bomb.

7. KT Tape is magic duct tape for the body.

8. Growth (success) and comfort cannot co-exist. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable (this means running with blisters, swimming in 17 degree water, taking cold baths, working overtime, making sacrifices, saving money etc etc).

9. I did a solo trek of the Kumano Kodo trail. One of my most memorable experiences this year. Hiking is good for the soul.

10. I changed jobs this year. Every time I change jobs, I try not to think of it as “work” but rather “you’re getting paid to learn every day”. This is a mindset which has helped me get through working life in Tokyo.

11. I scored a reservation at Narisawa – a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo. Life goals. Great food. Great company.

12. Discovered the joy and simplicity of savoury porridge. Now I can eat porridge for breakfast AND dinner. Cook your oatmeal in a simple broth, add bacon, mushrooms etc. Voila! Savoury porridge. Game changer for the lazy cook.

13. In 2018, I went to the dentist. Last time I visited a dentist was 6 years ago (gasp!). Don’t judge me. Also don’t hate me. I have good teeth. Never had a cavity, filling or braces in my life.

14. You should back up your laptop/computer. You never know when it might die. (Don’t learn this the hard way).

15. Sleep is awesome. It’s also underrated.

16. Elastic pants/shorts are your friend.

17. Everyone should own a thermos and a reuseable drink bottle. This year I made a conscious decision to drastically reduce PET bottle and single use plastic usage. Say no to straws. And refuse plastic bags where possible.

18. You’re stronger than you think. Keep on keeping on.

2018 – you were EPIC. Thanks everyone for sharing in the journey.

I don’t expect 2019 to be as eventful and epic as this year was, but one can always hope. (Challenge accepted).


These lyrics from the musical “Rent” are appropriate.
Song: Seasons of Love

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles,
In laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes,
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.
Seasons of love,
Seasons of love.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty five thousand journeys to plan,
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes,
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truth that she learned,
Or in times that he cried?
In the bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died?

It’s time now, to sing out,
Though the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate, remember a year,
In the life of friends.

Remember the love, (Oh you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love, (You know that love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love, (Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love, (Measure, measure your life in love)
Seasons of love,
Seasons of love (Measure your life, measure your life in love).

Getting an epipen in Japan (Tokyo)

If you’re looking to get your hands on an epiPen in Japan – yes, they are available by prescription. The below info is from recent personal experience (August 2017).

Generally, they should be available at any decent medical health clinic or hospital. Note however, that only certain doctors prescribe it, namely skin specialists (dermatologists), and possibly also allergy specialists.

I previously received my first epipen through Marunouchi Clinic  but when I tried to renew my epipen recently, they refused to do so. Long story, the facts of which seemed suspicious to, but in the end they refused or were unable to issue me with a new epipen due to my old one having expired. So I needed to find a new clinic that would.

I ultimately got an epipen really cheaply through Tokyo Business Clinic which offers services in English.

I called the clinic in advance saying that I needed to renew my epipen. They basically said to come into the clinic to consult with a doctor.

The process.

Arrived at the Doctor’s clinic. Fill out health condition form. Considering I was not actually sick, most of the form was left blank.

I then saw the skin doctor, who was prepared for the fact that I was there for an epiPen (because I had called the clinic in advance).

She had an epiPen picture brochure and the doctor explained and walked  through the epiPen – when to use it, how to use it etc. The doctor will ask why you need it, what kind of allergy etc. I also had to sit through a DVD explaining how to use an epipen.

Essentially they need you to understand when and how to use it as it is a self-administered injection.

You’ll also need to sign a questionnaire/consent form to ensure that you understand the use and the risks of the epi-Pen. You will get a copy of this consent form.

All up, it took about 20minutes by the time I watched the DVD and answered a few general questions. And yes they speak some basic English although Japanese language knowledge is helpful to make the process go more smoother.

The doctor was satisfied and would write a prescription.

I waited back out in reception for about 20 minutes whilst they did paperwork etc.

I had to pay for the consultation fee and the epipen in advance. However, you generally will need to wait 3-5 days to get the epipen and you’ll need to come back to pick it up. For some reason, this clinic doesn’t do same day prescriptions for epipens, although Marunouchi Clinic used to be able to do same day, although they now apparently don’t dispense epipens but I am a bit suspicious as to the validity of this.

The charge for the epipen renewal was only about 7,800yen which I thought was really cheap. I got the paperwork and receipt for it and was told they would call me once it was ready for pick up in a few days time.

 

But I’m pretty sure that any decent medical clinic or hospital that has a skin specialist will be able to prescribe one eg Midtown clinic in Roppongi should also be able to prescribe EpiPens (but you might be referred to the skin clinic department).

If you can’t read Japanese though, I highly, highly recommend that you Youtube and watch a video online on how to use the epiPen, because all the instructions in the kit and on the epiPen are written in Japanese.

I recommend also writing out English instructions in the kit, just in case someone who doesn’t read Japanese has to administer you the injection (eg when traveling etc), although it should be self-injected where possible.

The epiPen is  usually only effective for 1-2 years. The expiry date will be written on the pen, and there is also a registration postcard which you should fill in and post back. They will they send you reminders when you should update the prescription.

How to use the epiPen:

The epiPen is encased in a safety tube. Remove the yellow lid.

Take out epiPen.

Remove the grey cap.

Hold the pen with whole fist.

Swing/insert/inject the black tip into the thigh, – swing firmly for around 10 seconds until you hear a click sound. No need to press anything, just swing and inject into thigh. Bare skin is fine. It can also pierce through light clothing, but remove clothing where possible.

Remove epipen.

An epiPen is only an interim measure for anaphylaxis, and not a cure for any allergic reaction, so an ambulance should be called.

 

Another way to get one in Tokyo – the easier but more expensive way – easier in the sense that you can do the whole process in English, and not have to do it Japanese is go through the National Medical Clinic in Tokyo. They are an English-speaking/International private clinic that serves a lot of foreigners/expats and their families in Japan. They are located in Hiroo. They have English, and Japanese speaking staff. It’s possible they have staff that also speak other languages as well.

So I called them first and the phone was answered in English. No need to fumble my way in Japanese.

I asked whether they have a doctor that can prescribe an EpiPen. And they said yes – only on certain days when that particular doctor was in.

They were very upfront about the expense involved.

If you’ve never been to that clinic (that is, not a regular patient with them), you will need to pay:

  • the first-time consultation free (first-time consultation is always a premium fee – common with most clinics in Japan);
  • the actual consultation fee; and
  • then the epiPen itself.

I was told the total would be approx. 25,000yen total (note prices subject to change).

I was told that I could possibly get it cheaper from a (public) hospital and was advised to check around although she had no idea what other places would charge for it.

I was told that if I wanted to book an appointment over the phone and order the epi-Pen through the National Medical clinc, that once booked, I would not be able to cancel. I would have to pay for the epiPen whether I turned up to the appointment or not. I decided to check with other clinics. I was sure that I could find an epiPen elsewhere for cheaper.

At the National Medical Centre, once they have prescribed one for you, they will do repeat prescriptions without the charge for subsequent consultations. Please note that I have never used the services of the National Medical Centre so cannot speak from experience.

 

Dolphin swimming in Japan

Another opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, this time I got to go on as crew.

It’s pretty amazing to be able to swim with wild dolphins. It didn’t get off to a great start but in the end, we saw a lot. I got in one particular awesome jump.

At one point, we got so close to them, it was pretty incredible.

Coming straight for me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

A cool shot as they swam underneath me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

These dolphins were particularly playful and stuck around for a while.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

There were about 5-7 dolphins in this shot:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

And on a separate jump, we saw a mother and a baby dolphin, but they didn’t stick around to play.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

Seeing dolphins from the boat:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

High Tea in Yangon: The Strand Hotel

Will make more of a concerted effort to blog more this year, after a bit of a hiatus last year – not intentional – was just busy with work. A lot of it. Plus actually got around to doing a lot of stuff in Japan and travels as well. So expect a lot of travel photos and food reviews which I haven’t got around to posting up yet.

Over Christmas/New Year I went to Myanmar with a friend. She is based in Singapore for work, and so we decided to meet in Myanmar and spend two weeks there. It was pretty hectic as we covered a lot of ground in to two weeks with a lot of early starts (around 5am).

As is customary when I travel, I like to partake in high tea. This was no exception. And the afternoon was a lovely reprieve from the heat and travel stress.

The venue: The Strand, Yangon.
Date visited: 29 December 2015.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

It was a colonial style hotel with wicker furniture, wood panelling and high ceilings.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Afternoon tea was at the Strand Cafe located off to the lobby entrance. We turned up without a reservation. Can’t imagine there’d be crowds in Yangon to do afternoon tea.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

It was nice to be seated in air conditioning and just chill.

A choice of two afternoon tea menus – classic (traditional English) or a local Myanmar afternoon tea. Decisions, decisions. We had thought about going one of each to sample them both. But with lemon meringue pie and scones on offer – we both opted for the classic.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And so cheap compared to Australia or Japan, where nowadays you’ll 50-50 dollars for afternoon tea. We also ordered a glass of wine each (pretty much for the first time during the trip. Wine was very hard to come by anywhere that we had been to at least).

I loved the little baskets which the teapots came in:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

A cup of English breakfast always soothes away any stress or worries. It’s amazing how calming a cup is.

Time to settle in. Lots of foodie goodness.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Feeling right at home:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Yummy sandwiches which tasted divine after living on rice and noodles.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The desserts were worth it purely for the lemon meringue pie:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The chocolate gateau cake was also really good.

And my only complaint about the scones was that there was only one each (and not two).

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The vanilla cream that accompanied the scones was to die for. I could have just drunk that creamy vanillary goodness.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Can’t resist chocolate:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And my personal favourite: lemon meringue pie

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Probably the best lemon meringue I’ve ever had. Perfect balance of tartness, good pastry crust and sweetness on top. They were so good, we asked to buy additional tarts for take-out. They happily obliged. Take-away tarts were sold by the threes, so we got six of them. The French pastry chef made them fresh for us to take out. We looked very classy as we got them put into styrofoam containers.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And that’s afternoon tea in Yangon done. A shame I only got to do one tea there, but not so many establishments offer it anyway.
The Strand Hotel offered excellent value and tasty food. Extremely satisfying.

Expect some more high tea reviews in 2016.

Kayaking in Palau

Hello there.
It’s been forever since I’ve posted. This year has really gotten away. And my life is consumed by work and overtime. Work has been taking over my life, leaving little time for blogging, which is a shame, because I have soooooo much to blog about.

Recently, I went on a holiday to Palau under the guise of an open water swim race. I did actually did the 5km swim race even though I didn’t do any training. It was more an excuse to go to Palau. Such an amazing holiday. Am tempted to go back there. It truly is a spectacular water paradise. Although I will admit it, it kind of didn’t feel like I was getting away from Japan as such. Most of the tourists are all Japanese. All the tour operators and day tours are all in Japanese. And the menu’s everywhere were in Japanese.

Day one, I joined a kayak tour and it was run by a Japanese tour operator. Everyone in the group was in Japanese except myself, so they seemed to always get me a separate English speaking guide. The Japanese tour guide, led the Japanese people in Japanese and I kind of got my own local Palauan tour guide who spoke English.

The morning started off with a very gentle, not at all strenuous kayak through Nikko Bay.
We took a boat out through some waters to a floating dock where we got into some kayaks and then leisurely paddled through the crystal clear waters.
It was amazing.

From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau

The floating dock:

From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau
From Nikko Bay kayaking – Palau

The water has to be seen to be believed.

Tokyo brunch venue: Cicada

Finally got to check out Cicada (a mediterranean cuisine restaurant) for brunch, which is more like a lunch menu rather than traditional brunch items. They are part of the same food group that runs other great dining establishments like Ty Harbour, Ivy, and Beacon (which also does a great brunch).

Cicada was pretty packed on the day we went which happened to also be Mother’s Day. You generally need reservations to get a table. The front part of the restaurant is a bakery cafe BreadWorks under the same company umbrella, so you’ll need to proceed to the back where there is also an outdoor terrace dining area. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. Our group of 6 shared quite a few dishes so we got to sample a bit of everything.

I can’t resist scallops:

There’s something so meaty and satisfying about good chunky scallops:

And beetroot salad was not quite what I was expecting, but still tasty nevertheless – thin slices of beetroot with ricotta cheese in the middle.

And for mains, I went with the lamb which didn’t disappoint.

It was a lovely Sunday feast.

More like a lunch than a brunch.

We didn’t try the dessert menu but we did end up going to Blue Bottle coffee instead afterwards for coffee and beignets.

Brekky at Coogee

No place does a good brekky than Australia. Brunch by the beach is a weekend past-time for many Aussies. A popular beach spot is Sydney’s Coogee Beach, a favourite of mine. Had a nice Sunday breakfast at Barzura cafe at Coogee. This certainly hit the spot.

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From Coogee brekky
From Coogee brekky
From Coogee brekky

And ricotta pear pancakes we shared between three.

From Coogee brekky

Satisfying Sunday eats.

Nokonoshima: flower park

Last autumn, whilst down in Kyushu, I took a half day trip to the island of Nokonoshima – just a short train and boat ride away from Fukuoka. I was in Saga at the time, so had got up early to travel from Saga to Fukuoka and then to the boat port.

Nokonoshima is a very small island. The only thing I saw there was the flower park, which is what the island is famous for. The park occupies much of the island.

From Nokonoshima

Highly recommend going when the flowers are in season. I was in luck. Even though it was November, I managed to catch the field of cosmos flowers. Weather was surprisingly gorgeous and the view of the surrounding waters from the island was really nice too.

Enjoy the colourful flower photos:

First, the boat ride:

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

And if all that water makes you wanna pee, follow the signs once at the flower park:

From Nokonoshima

Once you arrive at the port at Nokonoshima, you need to take the local bus to the park. It’s all uphill, along windy narrow roads, so a rental bike is not really recommended.

The flower park is at one of the highest points on the island. Great views:

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

The park is quite large. There are different sections for different flower fields. There is even a small animal/farm section.
Saw me some goats….I’m not kidding!

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

There’s even swings for the kids:

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

The highlight was the cosmos field:

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

And these flowers were cool too, really bright:

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

Allow yourself a few hours to walk around the park. It’s super relaxing and peaceful. Take a book, chill out, pack a picnic or eat at the restaurant there.

From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima
From Nokonoshima

I managed to spend a couple of hours here, and then made my way back to Fukuoka for my afternoon flight back to Tokyo.
All in a day’s work.