Japanese Broadway Musical: My New Yearning

This blog is a living proof that I absolutely without any doubt love anything about Japan.  From its food, to its beautiful weather, to its magnificent sites, up to its exquisite culture and gentle people.

This blog also is a testament to the startling fact that I love Broadway musicals.  From its ingenious production designs, to its mind blowing choreographies, to its incredible story plots up to marvellous musical tunes and talents.

Amazingly, the recent Youtube video which I stumbled upon is a surprising mix of both.  This video gives me a reason to again visit Japan and see their unique version and remarkable rendition of western musicals.

wow!

wow!

What is so delightful in watching this video is that I don’t have to have the lyrics translated in a language that I understand.  I already know the story, the uttered lines as well as the music.  The only thing that I got to do is to witness the stunning visuals, hear the pleasing musical tunes and savour the delightful experience.

This is so beautiful…

Now I wonder how my favourite nemesis Ursula is interpreted by this Japanese musical company.

Kakaiba ‘di ba?

Making Use of My Train Trainings at New York Trains

I can’t believe that I am now in New York.  All the tiring 20 hours of travelling by air I guess is all worth it.  My first day in New York was basically an orientation with my super friend Jhong on how to use the complicated subway.

smile... no worries...

smile… no worries…

But with my practical background of experience, I can proudly say that going around New York by myself via intricate subway would be an easy stroll in a park.  I attribute this easy learnings from two tenets.

First is my exposure to the equally complicated subways of Tokyo and Osaka.  I think navigating Japan trains is more challenging because the names of the stations are written in Japanese kanji, and if written in the English alphabet the names of these Japanese stations are really very hard to remember.  Japanese train station names looks and sounds like they are from another planet.

I was so channeling my Japanese-subway learnings  that it became so apparent because a couple times Japanese tourists thought I was Japanese and asked me in Nipponggo on how to go to certain points of New York.

Second, I am all but well trained and exposed to the Metro Manila congestion.  I am proud to say that I am ready to face the New York crowdedness because of my exposure to the Manila congested trains.  Nothing beats the crammed people-congested trains of Manila.  It’s hot, humid, jam-packed,smelly, hazardous and least to say, inefficient.

cheers...

cheers…

That is why on my second day in the State of New York, no thanks to the allergy attacks of my super friend (I guess this is due to stress upon realizing that I would be staying in his apartment for 2 weeks, hahaha!) I went on my own and easily navigated the New York subway from Woodside in Queens to the glorious Time Square in Manhattan and back.  It was supposed to be very easy but things got challenging when there were a couple of stations that were unpassable and were under maintenance, thus, the need to change lines and platforms.  But all went well, thanks to my Japanese and Manila train trainings.

Next adventure tomorrow would be the World Trade Center Memorial and the bucolic-like Chelsea Market…

Isi isi… madali lang pala…

A Candle Lit Visit at Nakajima Park

Nakajima Koen is the end point subway station of my family’s recent journey from Osaka to Sapporo in Hokkaido.  After reaching this station, the remaining thing that we have to do is to drag our luggage and walk for a couple of minutes for us to reach our designated hotel.

Upon touchdown at Hokkaido, we only got to personally feel the snow with our very own hands when we got out of Nakajima Koen station.  Everyone were so excited with knowing what the actual feel of the snow is, we literally left our humongous bags and luggage right at the doorstep of the station and ran towards  the northern end of Nakajima Park which is located right above and outside Nakajima Koen station.  And since its Japan, no one (of course) stole our luggage.

The following morning when we proceeded to Nakajima Koen to ride the subway, we noticed that artisans are starting to work on their snow pieces so as to decorate, spruce up and embellish the park.

Nakajima Park is actually not part of the 3 major sites and venues of the Sapporo Snow Festival, but this park was transformed into something very dramatic to support and in a way reinforce and bolster the joys of the ongoing festival.

lighted pathway

lighted pathway

love this shot

love this shot (I dedicate this shot as well as the music of the video below to my late friend, Red, who passed away while I was in Japan)

a totally different drama at nakajima

a totally different drama at nakajima

Nakajima Park turns out to become a ‘snow-lighted park’.  Japanese call it YukiAkari.  And after long and arduous preparations, YukiAkari will only run for three nights.  Lucky for us because we were there when it opened.

Inside the park is a small tent where you can draw anything on a paper cup (for free) and this cup will be turned into a lantern.  Your personal paper cup lantern in turn will be added as part of the park’s lighted decoration.

super cool

super cool gallery of sorts…

nengkoy was here...

nengkoy was here…

erika's "mon amour" piece is also lighted

erika’s “mon amour” piece is also lighted

peaceful

peaceful

Those ice and snow lanterns are so pretty!  The pictures don’t really capture the atmosphere of the flickering candles in the snow.

Bunder’s 2014 Vimeo video actually captured some of the feel and beauty of this portion of Sapporo.  Watch it…

This has been my personal favourite among the amazing sites I saw during my family’s Sapporo adventure.

Super nays…

Tsu Dome: The Family-Oriented Site of Sapporo Snow Festival

team langit conquering tsu dome

team langit conquering tsu dome

The first Sapporo Snow Festival venue my family went to before seeing the sparkling Susukino and the magnificent Odori Park is the white snow fields of Tsu Dome.  This site is our first snow endeavour as a family.  It’s so obvious that it is our first snow adventure because as soon as we arrived at the site the first thing me and my family did was to take shelter by getting inside a heated cabin and ordered the hottest instant noodles available!

nengkoy after being thawed by a hot instant noodles...

nengkoy after being thawed by hot instant noodles…

tsu dome! fun! fun! fun!

tsu dome! fun! fun! fun!

It was the first day of the festival when we arrived at Tsu Dome.  This is evidenced because the snow artists for the site’s snow sculpture exhibits has just started with their work.

The distinctive character of Tsu Dome as compared to Susuki and Odori Park venues is that the features are family-oriented and the site is more interactive.  There’s a lot of things to do in the site that involves snow-related family activities.  The site actually fits more to the children’s liking and I have never seen so much Japanese kids in my life until that day!  It’s the Sapporo Snow Festival that should not be missed if you have kids.

young sculptors up for something...

young sculptors up for something…

thatcher in a picture perfect moment...

thatcher in a picture perfect moment…

that is sooo japanese!

that is sooo japanese!

Good thing my genius nephews and nieces considered this place as the first site to visit among the three major venues of the snow festival.  Otherwise, this site could have become a little boring if our itinerary started with the bravura of the giant snow sculptures of Odori Park.

Anyway, aside from the outdoor snow activities, there are also lots of kiddie features, events and goings-on inside the imposing dome.  Channeling the kids in us, every one of us did the snow rafting ride as towed by a snowmobile.  I, my younger sister, nephews and nieces also cracked the thrill offered by the gigantic snow slide!

awesome!

awesome! after the doing a scary water rafting in davao river, this is kid stuff for nengkoy

super fun!

super fun!

picture muna

picture muna

Tsu Dome was a nice start.  It was a pure clean fun site of the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Ang kukyut ng mga bagets! Ang sarap pisil pisilin!

Miso Ramen: The Seventh Level of Heaven

The non-negotiables when I’m travelling abroad with friends or family are the sights to see and the food to eat.  I can scrimp on room accommodations and modes of transportation but the gastronomic exploits needs to be remarkable.  Besides epicurean remarkability need not be expensive and extravagant.

That is exactly what I and my family had when we were in Hokkaido.  Since Sapporo is the birthplace of Miso Ramen, letting the humongous chance to try the authentic would simply be absurd.

That is why we had Miso Ramen not once but twice while we were there.  The enticement is just too strong that is why we tried twice which I classify as the old and the new forms.

First stop was Horyu (TakaraRyu), a Sapporo Ramen specialist operating since 1957.  Prior to going to Sapporo, we were not aware of the existence of this ramen house located right at busy street of Sapporo-Ekimae Dori.  This was actually our first meal after our smooth flight from Osaka to Hokkaido.  Everybody were so hungry we almost ended up eating inside a FamilyMart near our hotel.

so hungry i wanted to eat the facade!

so hungry i wanted to eat the facade!

clueless how prestigious the ramen house is...

clueless how prestigious the ramen house is…

But thrusting and trusting my instinct on which food establishment to dine by the mere look of the façade, I urged my family to dine in this authentic Japanese ramen house.  And by the looks, smell and taste of the special miso ramen served by Horyu (TakaraRyu), I can proudly say that my hunger instinct did not fail me that time.

enchanting!

enchanting!

wicked rice topping!

wicked rice topping!

they were actually requesting for my autograph but i was to amazed to say yes

they were actually requesting for my autograph but i was too hungry to say yes

It is surprising to note that as you enter Horyu (TakaraRyu), photos of Japanese celebrities are posted on the wall enjoying their miso ramen.  What is also surprising to know is that this restaurant has been awarded the Governor of Hokkaido Prize because of its traditional taste and old-fashioned way of preparing miso ramen.  My further research about Horyu (TakaraRyu) indicates that this ramen house is a very successful and well distinguished food establishment in Japan operating in multiple branches in 9 prefectures in Japan.  And the one we dined at (with a total of 29 seats only) was the main or premier branch were all its success started.

Another opportunity we embraced to enjoy slurping the now universal classic Miso Ramen (aka Sapporo Ramen) was on the night when we just came from adoring the sparkling ice carving exhibits at Susukino.  This time we tried the new and modern-day ramen house called Kita Ichi.  As expected, I ordered the ramen with the biggest photo on the menu called Tokusen Miso, in which my nephew translated as high-grade or Special Miso.

where magic happens!

where magic happens!

bewitching!

bewitching!

kita ichi means north one

kita ichi means north one

Kita Ichi is a new ramen house that is starting to swell and pop up like shitake mushrooms in Hokkaido. The outlet were we dined is actually not available/posted yet in Google (can’t find it!).

braving the freezer cold outside kita ichi! hahaha!

braving the freezing cold outside kita ichi! hahaha!

After clearly demolishing the bowls of Horyu (TakaraRyu) and Kita Ichi, I can profess that there really is no clear-cut difference in terms of my enjoying the delicious Sapporo Ramen.  May it have been served and prepared by an old or a new ramen house, I consider both as the 7th level of heaven…

Kesarapsarap!

The Young Susukino Vibe of the Sapporo Snow Festival

Another brilliant site among the most celebrated venues of Saporro Snow Festival is at Susukino, one of the dazzling and biggest red-light districts of Japan.

At Susukino, located at Chuo-ku in Sapporo, the festival features are not snow but ice.  It showcases various ice carvings in intricate and mind-boggling forms.  What I noticed is that these magnificent ice carving displays are entries to an ice sculpting contest.

cool sparkling tunnel

cool sparkling tunnel

frozen!

frozen!

superb pieces...

superb pieces…

i heart susukino!

erika & denden… i heart susukino!

amazed!

amazed!

cheers!

cheers!

erika's cool ride...

erika’s cool ride…

The Susukino site is totally different as compared to the gigantic snow highlights of Odori Park.  It is so evident that young Japanese folks in the area are not the usual reserved type.  They were more care-free and expressive. Maybe it’s because of the booze since glittery selection of bars, alcohols and spirits are readily accessible within the area.  The fun fab vibe and character of this site is similar to that of a huge street party spirit.

I had an undeniable fun at Susukino!

Ay hart Susukino!

Spectacular Sapporo Snow Festival at the Odori Park

Feeling, seeing and experiencing the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido was the main reason of my family’s comeback visit to adorable Japan.  And true enough we were in Sapporo, Hokkaido during the week’s highlights of the snow festival.

breathtaking view from above!

breathtaking view from above!

Thanks to the genius talent and cleverness of my three dear nephew and nieces (Denden, Erika and Thatcher) who are all based in Osaka for arranging everything.  From domestic air travel arrangements, to accommodation as well as the well-organized itinerary for each day.  It was such a worry-free winter adventure.

The Sapporo Snow Festival as I learned during the trip has three main venues.  One of which is the Odori Park located right at the heart of Sapporo.  This is the site where spectacular and gigantic snow sculptures are aligned along the stretch of the 1.5 kilometer park.

It was my first time to see and watch an actual snowboard and ski jumping exhibitions!  It was super scary yet it was happening right in the middle of the park!

super thrill!

super thrill!

that ain't a bird!

that ain’t a bird!

Being a Filipino tourist in a foreign country, it is so remarkable and delightful to see and witness the Philippines’ participation in the festival. My family was very surprised to see the giant sculpture depicting the Manila Cathedral.  I initially could not believe that there is a Philippine entry, I was shouting “sNOw WAY!”

i was so stunned, i wanted to enter and hear mass!

i was so stunned, i wanted to enter and hear mass!

me and my dear sister feeling proud

me and my dear sister feeling proud

we love sapporo!

we love sapporo!

But because of its grandiosity, it is actually considered one of the most beautiful feature highlights at the festival and seem to be one of the most revered and photographed sculpture.  We were so proud we couldn’t stop taking its photo!

But the ultimately stunning sculpture was the almighty 50-foot tall giant snow sculpture of the Star Wars!  No doubt it was the most adored and most popular!

one happy gang!

one happy gang! (with my younger sister, niece and nephews)

wow!

wow!

may the force be with you...

may the force be with you…

It was so cool, the Death Star and three Stormtroopers were featured!  And since I adore movie villains, this giant sculpture easily became my favourite because there was no Star Wars hero present and instead the iconic yet most villainous Darth Vader snow-statue was mounted!

 

Super kool ‘di ba?!

My Hokkaido Ski Experience

Being a 100% Filipino living all throughout my delicious life in the hot tropics of Metro Manila, my DNA for sure is not coded for winter season and much worse for a winter sport.  But with my exceptional passion and spirit to be acquainted with these uncommon affairs, I built up enough guts to master what needs to be mastered about winter and its associated sport.

enjoying the cold with nengkoy and erika

enjoying the cold with nengkoy and erika

with dr. william smith scott at sapporo hitsujigaoka observatory hill

with dr. william smith scott at sapporo hitsujigaoka observatory hill

my dear sister on a fine powdery snow...

my dear sister on a fine powdery snow…

my three japan-based "pamangkins"

my three japan-based “pamangkins”

That is why while I was in Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan, the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, I took the opportunity to try and pursue the sport of skiing.  And true enough, I easily mastered the art of sliding down the snowy slopes of Sapporo.

Just watch the short video below on how I did the various skiing maneuvers.  From the Iron Cross, to 540 turn, to the Daffy aerial trick, to the Lincoln Loop and of course the Back Flip aerial maneuver. Given another 2 days, I believe I can win the world cup in both slalom and downhill categories.

But seriously, I think skiing is an extremely difficult winter sport that demands great physical stamina and skill.  I actually fell four times while doing a single round of the snow-filled Ishikari Plain at the Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill.

I also learned that falling with the ski on is much easier than standing up from it.  It took less than a second to plunge down on my butt but took me more than a minute to stand up and regain my balance.    I was not embarrassed though because the few people who were also skiing for the first time were also slipping and tumbling like tired toy soldiers.

And guess what? Right after I finished what seem to be an endless round of skiing, I was sweating so profusely I was craving for a strawberry ice cream!  It was never in my wildest dream to ski, but the experience is truly one for the books.

Pinawisan ako. Pramis!

Breathtaking Views from Harukas 300

My present Osaka visit confirmed further that it is my most favorite city on the planet.  All the while, I thought I have been to all its best places to go to.  But I was at awe when I and my family visited the top of Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan.  Abeno Harukas is the newest landmark in this part of Nippon country for it just opened in March/April of 2014.

elevator entrance

elevator entrance

at the cold open air area of the 58th floor

at the cold open air area of the 58th floor

The top three atrium cum observatory floors of the building is called Harukas 300 which offers the sweeping view of the whole Osaka metropolis.  The lower floors houses a five star hotel, a magnificent museum, high-end offices and a humongous shopping mall.

The view at Harukas 300 floors are so wonderful, it is hard to find words to fully describe it. The whole panoramic sight will make your heart beat faster and makes you realize how huge Osaka is and how spectacular Japanese architectural advancement is.

spectacular view!

spectacular view!

amazing!

amazing!

:)

🙂

cosmopolitan osaka

cosmopolitan osaka

It is surprising to note that the observation deck vicinity was actually very relaxing considering that it is so modern and top of the class.  The coffee shop at the 58th floor was a good add-on facility for people who would like to unwind and let time pass by while enjoying a spectacular view of the city.

Harukas 300 is indeed a new iconic landmark in cosmopolitan Osaka.

Ameysing!

Osaka has Pablo while Snaffle’s is in Hokkaido

When me and my family visits Japan (which fortunately has been a regular occurrence in the last couple of years) not having the Osaka-originated Pablo Cheese Tart seem like a mortal sin.  Thus, during our present visit we again lined up to buy and enjoy this amazing dessert.  Not only did we have the medium soft version of this enslaving cheese tart, we also had the newest version which has fresh orange on top.

yummy!

yummy!

But since the highlight of our present Japan adventure is to experience the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, we were fortunate enough to come across Hokkaido’s best version and equally popular cheesecake.

a little piece of heaven

a little piece of heaven

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the fascinating palatal experience brought about by Snaffle’s Cheese Cake from Hakodate, Hokkaido.  The soft creamy texture is simply perfect.  This heaven-sent dessert brings a different penchant to your sweet, smooth and cheesy impression.  The savory flavor brings a unique invigorating assault on the taste buds.  Its addictive character is equally impressive to that of Osaka’s Pablo.

the box that easily gets empty

the box that easily gets empty

savoring every bite

savoring every bite

Snaffles was a big hit with my family.  Everyone loved it!  Unfortunately, Snaffle’s as we found out is not yet available in Osaka while Pablo is nowhere to be found in Hokkaido.  I hope I would be the one benefiting from these delicious gastronomic highlights by having these exceptional desserts available in the Philippines.  I know Pablo will soon be available in Manila (by the 3rd quarter of 2015) and I’m wishing that Snaffle’s will follow suit.

Best tsiskeyks eber!