Saturday, May 18, 2019

Japan Travel: Nara

One of the most famous attractions in Nara (Japan) is Nara Park, where you can find many deer around. Other than visiting the deer, another highlight of our trip to Nara was to experience a traditional Japanese festival called Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri 春日若宮おん祭, which takes place on 17 December every year.

From Namba in Osaka, we took Kintetsu Railway to Nara. A short walk along the shopping street outside Kintetsu-Nara Station, we saw the famous Japanese mochi shop Nakatanidou 中谷堂. It is well-known for the high speed mochi pounding process, in which one man hammers the mochi, while the other man uses his hand to turn the mochi, really amazing! Though we avoided the long queue as we were there early, there was no mochi pounding demonstration. The mochi was soft, with delicious red bean filling.

It was quite a distance to walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station to Todai-ji 東大寺 inside Nara Park. Along the way, we saw the locals preparing for the festival - some set up the food stalls, some dressed up and prepared the horses.

Finally we stepped into Nara Park, there were so many deer! When I visited this place N years ago, it was during Cherry Blossom. The place looked different during this visit as it was late autumn, the deer blended in nicely with the brownish red leaves on the ground!

There were stalls selling senbei (crackers) for the deer. It was an interesting sight that none of the deer took the senbei from the stalls!

We entered Todai-ji through Nandaimon Gate (Great South Gate).

Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) houses Japan's largest bronze statue of Buddha. The admission fee is 600 yen for adult and 400 yen for child.

It was almost 12 noon when the parade team started from Nara Japanese Prefecture Government Office outside Nara Park. As I was not sure the parade route, I asked a policeman with my half-past six Japanese, and figured out that we should follow the crowd and stay around Kofuku-ji 興福寺 along Sanjo-dori.

While we were waiting for the parade team to come, we bought some snacks and Okonomiyaki. It was really crowded! No wonder policemen had to be there to control the crowd. The parade team finally appeared at around 1250 p.m.! It was my 8th time visiting Japan, but it was my first time witnessing a Japanese traditional festival! It was really an eye-opening experience for us!

Actually it was not the end of the festival. There were a ceremony and horse racing at Ichi no Torri of Kasuga Taisha, which we decided to give it a miss as it was too crowded.

As we walked back towards Kintetsu-Nara Station, we spotted pink strawberries. But we didn't buy any as we heard that pink strawberries were not as sweet as the usual red ones.

Before we left Nara, I bought the popular pudding from Mahoroba Daibutsu Purin まほろば大仏プリン本舗 at Kintetsu-Nara Station. As we were heading to Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, the pudding became my supper when we reached the hotel. It was smooth and not too sweet.

If you are visiting Kansai area, do consider planning a half-day or one-day trip to Nara!

Our Japan Travelogue (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) December 2018

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Helping Children Cope with Exam Stress

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This is one of the times of the year that the children, and even the parents, dread - school examination! How do you help your children cope with exam stress?

1. Manage our own expectation and emotion
Yes, I am talking about the parents who have to manage our own expectation and emotion! Sometimes the children's stress may come from the parents, who exhibit anxiety even more than the children! After a long day of work or household chores, we are very tired and have limited patience when we coach our children in their revision. I feel like erupting like a volcano at times, so one thing that I do to manage my emotion is to take deep breath and stay away from my children (e.g. go to the toilet) for a while.

2. Thoughtful acts to relieve the children's stress
Simple acts like preparing the children's favourite food, getting them to go to bed early, and giving praises and positive feedback would help the children relieve their stress.

3. Allow pockets of time for the children to relax
Plan a study schedule with your children, and leave pockets of time for them to take a break from their study. My children read story books to relax their mind, currently they are reading following books from Scholastic.

Thea Stilton Mouseford Academy - Sea Turtle Rescue

Author: Geronimo Stilton
Age: 10 - 12
When Nicky and Paulina give up their summer vacation to guard a nest of sea-turtle eggs, they become the stars of a new nature documentary!

Dog Man - Brawl of the Wild

Author: Dav Pilkey
Age: 10 - 12
Is Dog Man bad to the bone? The heroic hound is sent to the pound for a crime he didn't commit! While his pals work to prove his innocence, Dog Man struggles to find his place among dogs and people. Being a part of both worlds, will he ever fully fit in with one?

Goosebumps Slappyworld - It's Alive! It's Alive!

Author: R. L. Stine
Age: 10 - 12
Livvy and Jayden are the stars of their school's robotics team. Livvy is especially enthusiastic because her own mother works in a robotics lab and experiments with Artificial Intelligence. To impress her mom, Livvy and Jayden build a robot. Livvy wants to name their robot "Francine," but Jayden thinks that's too silly for their creation. Desperate to win, Livvy and Jayden "borrow" an Artificial Intelligence module. They soon realize they've made a terrible mistake. Francine has too much brain power. She's alive! And using this newly gained brain power to dream up a deadly contest!

Discount Code for Scholastic Books at Reader's House

All PeiPei.HaoHao readers can enjoy 20% off discount for Scholastic books on Reader's House website!
Discount code: PEIHAO20
How to use: At the cart checkout, type PEIHAO20 and then click Apply Coupon
Terms and Conditions: The discount code is applicable to only Scholastic books on Reader's House website, it is not applicable to the shipping fee.

Scholastic Asia

Disclaimer: We received the books for review purpose. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photos are mine. 

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Japan Travel: Osaka Food Guide

Osaka is well known as foodies' paradise in Japan, there are so many eateries, supermarkets and convenient stores in the region! We are sharing what went into into our stomach during our trip!

Kuromon Ichiba Market 黒門市場

Osaka's kitchen offers different types of seafood, meat, vegetables and fruits. Read our blog post on Kuromon Ichiba Market for the verdict of the eateries that we visited.

Dotonbori 道頓堀 and Shinsaibashi 心斎橋

The shopping and dining district that offer Japanese street food and different cuisines. Read our blog post on Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi for what went into our stomach - ramen, takoyaki, grilled crab leg, soft serve, lobster roll, Calbee freshly made potato chips, baked cheese cake.

Kaitenzushi Ganko 回転寿司がんこ at JR Osaka Station Eki Marche

Our children enjoy eating sushi, and the price at conveyor belt sushi eatery is more affordable than those at higher end restaurants. After our visit to Kyoto, we took Japan Rail (JR) back to Osaka, where we found Kaitenzushi Ganko 回転寿司がんこ.

Some of the sushi that we tried - anago eel, Hiroshima boiled oyster, natto (fermented beans)....

Crab leg...

And there are sushi for vegetarians!

Don't worry if what you wish to eat does not appear on the conveyor belt, you can just tell the sushi chef and they will prepare for you!

Gyutan Sumiyaki Rikyu 牛たん炭焼利久 at JR Osaka Station Eki Marche 

Gyutan Sumiyaki Rikyu is just next to Kaitenzushi Ganko at JR Osaka Station Eki Marche. Since I am the only person in the family who eat beef tongue, I thought it would be quite embarrassing to dine in, with 3 persons looking at 1 person eating. So I ordered a take-away bento set to enjoy at the hotel.

I was thankful that there was microwave oven at the hotel lobby, so that I could heat up the bento. The beef tongue was still delicious even though it was almost 1 hour after it was prepared. How I wish I could have dined in!

Sarabeth's Osaka at JR Osaka Station Lucua 

Sarabeth's is praised as "Queen's breakfast in New York", so I was very keen to check it out. Instead of having breakfast, we  had our afternoon tea at Sarabeth's Osaka. I was glad that there was a set meal that included all the signature dishes that I wanted to try!

Included in the set meal was a small bowl Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup. It was creamy and delicious, but I finished this with just a few mouthful.

Classic Eggs Benedict served in the set meal was half of the regular portion. The poached egg was done to perfection, it went well with the smoked ham and English muffin.

Half of the regular portion of the signature dish Fat and Fluffy French Toast was also included in the set meal. Luckily we also ordered one regular dish, otherwise Pei Pei and I would have fought for the heavenly tasting toast! Crispy on the outside, fluffy and soft for the inside, I wish I could have more!

Hao Hao sang praises for Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes, which had a tinge of citrus taste.

DaDi had the healthiest dish - Sarabeth's Morning Crunch that consisted of fruits, granola and yogurt.

It was indeed a luxurious afternoon tea - pleasant ambiance, yummy food, and a bonus of being served by a good-looking waiter haha! Well, it was quite costly though as we paid more than 5000 yen (SGD60+)!

Jumbo Tsuribune Tsurikichi ジャンボ釣船つり吉
    When I shared with our children about a restaurant where patrons can catch their own fish, they were thrilled and said they wanted to go! Located near Osaka Metro Dobutsuen-mae 動物園前, this restaurant is surrounded by many eateries that specialise in kushikatsu 串カツ, one of the Osaka's popular food.

    I requested to have a table on the ship-look-alike area, but I was not sure why the staff looked rather unhappy and seemed disapproving of my request. Anyway, after some chicken and duck talk, we managed to a table on tatami floor.

    The waitress gave us a small portion of fishing bait, and our children happily started fishing. I observed for a few minutes, no one around caught any fish, so I thought I should order some food - sushi set, whitebait salad, kushikatsu, and kids' meals.

    For kushikatsu (deep fried skewers), please note that you can dip the deep-fried skewer into the sauce only once, as the sauce is placed in a container for everyone to use. In the case that you need more sauce for your skewer, then use the lettuce to take the sauce!

    While I was happily taking photos and videos of them, suddenly Pei Pei shouted! A fish was hooked by her fishing rod! I quickly helped her support the fish rod, Hao Hao took a fish net to fetch the fish, and DaDi helped Hao Hao to support the net. Other patrons clapped and cheered for us! It was indeed team effort to catch the fish, but it was a pity that I couldn't manage to take a video of the process. Anyway, it was one of fondest memories of the trip!

    In such restaurant, once a fish is caught, you have to pay for it. We ordered half portion to be grilled and half portion to be simmered. Both dishes turned out to be yummy, we preferred the simmered one as the gravy was very delicious!

    The total damage of the dinner? About 8000 yen (~SGD100)! Expensive, but the memory was priceless.

    Yakisupa Romakan 焼きスパ ローマ軒 at Hankyu Sanban-gai 阪急三番街

    Other than the typical pasta, this restaurant serves Japanese style fried noodles. The portion was rather generous!

    Family Cafe Otama 家カフェ おたま at Namba Parks
      We were shopping at Namba Parks and chanced upon this Japanese family restaurant. We were attracted by the food samples at the display and decided to give it a try.

      For each set meal we ordered, we could get 3 small bowls of appraisers, which were Japanese prickles. There were 4 types to choose from at the self-service station, so we tried out all of them. The prickles were delicious, and we were almost half full while waiting for the main dishes.

      We ordered baked salmon, calm hot pot and scallop hot pot. The dishes were like home-cooked food and it was a comfortable meal.

      Mita Seimen 三田製麺所 at Namba City

      Our initial plan was to have conveyor belt sushi at Namba City, however the queue was super long, so we turned towards Mita Seimen opposite the conveyor belt sushi. Since the price for small, medium and large portion was the same, of course we ordered the large portion.

      The dip sauce was very rich in flavour. But since we didn't order char siew and egg, we were still hungry after that.

      Life Supermarket and Super Tamade 玉出 Supermarket

      As you can see, we spent quite a fair bit on food. We had to go budget at times. Supermarkets are our best friends, especially in the evening, some of the food are sold at a discounted price! There were 2 supermarkets near our hotel - Life Supermarket and Super Tamade Supermarket (Ok, if you understand Chinese, the name of the latter sounds rather funny).

      Life Supermarket looks like our Cold Storage or FairPrice Finest in Singapore, the layout is neat and the store is bright, and the outlet we visited is huge, with two levels. On the other hand, Super Tamade Supermarket is packed with goods, and the price seems to be cheaper, and it reminds me of another supermarket in Singapore!

      This is the cooked food section at Life Supermarket.

      My eyes were focusing on food with yellow label, which indicates the discounted price. I bought a sushi set at 20% off discount.

      The baked sweet potato was very delicious! It went into our stomach before our camera could have a "bite" of it! We also bought drinks, natto (Japanese fermented beans), strawberries, cup noodles and so on from supermarkets.

      During our trip to Osaka in Decemebr 2018, we saw a new cup noodles flavour - sea urchin cream! But of course, it is not real sea urchin! The taste was quite unique.

      After long walk in winter, it was nice to have piping hot cup noodles when we reached the hotel! Ok, let's forget about eating healthy for a few days...

      Do share with us the must-eat food when you are in Osaka!

      Our Japan Travelogue (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) December 2018

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