Monday, October 14, 2019

Genki Sushi

A year ago, Genki Sushi opened at Junction 8 and it was the only eatery P and I regularly visit at least once every few weeks. There were long queues when it first opened, and a year later, the queues are still around, unlike many other shops which had long queues only when it first opened. I've seen the queues at the take outlet and it was just as long. It's not the cheapest sushi place around but we really loved the food, and P started eating Japanese food and sushi after we got kind of addicted to it. Most of the times he is the one having the craving for it.

The cute train that delivered our food
After my long run last night, it was 9pm when I got home and P had this sushi craving. Sometimes, we do takeouts from the restaurant but it is still better to eat the food hot, plus the takeout dinner also involves a lot of plastic containers so I prefer to eat-in. I was tired, sweaty and hot last night but I agreed to it. However, it would be a bit of a rush as the last order is at 9.30pm so we decided to just go for it on Sunday evening. To beat the long queue, we sometimes get to the restaurant early at 6pm or much much later at 9pm so that we can get seats almost immediately, or the other way is to do takeouts.

The long queues that are always there from 6pm till at least 8++

I finished my tuition this evening at 7pm and I was hungry even before the session started, so I asked P to meet me there around 7.30pm, I couldnt wait till 9pm to eat as that will be too late. We started queueing around 7.40pm and only got a seat at 8.20pm, that was how long the queue was, but it was not the longest we had waited. We were lucky to get a nice booth seat, even though we were all mentally prepared to just go for the next available counter seat.

Not so family and big group friendly seating

What set Genki apart from the other restaurants is the using of cute sushi trains to deliver the orders, there are also no servers to take our orders. Last year they had iPads at every table or station which we used to order the food, and this year they just gave us QR code to scan with our phones and we can order using our own mobile phones. How cool is that? We observed that most of the patrons are young couples and younger groups of people, we do see families with kids and old people but those are rare. The restaurant seating is not cool for groups and families as there are only ten booths and about thirty bar counter seats.

Takeout to Junction 8 playground opened area
There were a few times we did takeouts and ate the food at the open area in Junction 8 (one with a playground and groups of students). We did that once when we were going to catch a movie and did not have time to queue and on another occasion, we were just too hungry to wait till we get home to eat.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Long Run Saturday

I was supposed to go for the CSC Run by the Bay HM this evening. I had been looking forward to do my first HM this year and had went through some trouble to get my bib. Due to some reasons, which I already cannot remember now, I missed all the other races like 2XU, NTUC Income Run and Sundown. As far as I could remember, I had been doing this run for the past years, though I'm not sure if I skipped any edition. I missed the race pack collection last week as I was too lazy to make a trip down last Saturday, and I did not realise that was the last day to collect. I dropped the organisers a message and managed to get my bib delivered through BluPort parcel delivery, with extra $15 charge.

I checked the eguide a few days ago and somehow I had the impression that the 21km was going to flag off at 6.30pm, I was telling myself I should leave the house at 5pm to catch the shuttle bus at Stadium MRT station. I was a running a little late and checked the CSC Run Facebook page as I was heading out, it was pouring earlier and I was wondering if there were wet weather plans. I saw an update that it mentioned the first event will flag off soon and I was surprised, I checked the website again and realised I remembered the time wrong, the HM was flagging off at 5.45pm and that was half an hour away. A few weeks ago I did the Batman Run with P and we were 10min late, everyone was gone and the start line was awfully quiet. I did not want to do it again, alone. I decided to go home and drop my bag and do my own long run around the area, the sky looked dark and it was windy and cool even though it was still an hour away from sunset. I skipped the LSD last week and the previous run two weeks ago ended at 16km, so I really pushed myself to go a bit more this week. It was tough but I really need the mileage for the Osaka Marathon coming up in less than 50 days. I'm still undertraining as usual but I'm just hoping I will not suffer as much as last year.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Another feel good day

Such a feeling coming over me...
Just counting down to 5 more weeks before the end of term, I feel real good now!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Glamping Season 3 in Japan Day 3 (15/6) Yufuin and Beppu

I woke up early and went to the ladies' outdoor onsen for a soak, it was still drizzling and T was soaking there so I decided to give her some privacy and headed for the indoor bath instead. I have to admit I'm cool soaking with strangers but its still weird to bump into someone I know in the nude. I had a quick bath and I was surprised P managed to wake up for a quick soak in the room before we headed out for a early breakfast. The breakfast was another huge spread and exquisite affair and we were so full after we were done.

Very nice plating

I think this was wagyu.. cant remember

Very special bamboo sauce

Steamed vegetables

The nice lobby area

Tried the footbath
Sanga Ryokan was really nice, its a pity our stay was really short so I didnt get to try out most of the other onsen. We only had time to walk a little around the nice little garden, before we went back to the room and get ready to leave the place. The ryokan had arranged for the shuttle to drop us off at the bus stop, and we were heading to Yufuin next. The bus stop was really crowded with many tourists and there's only an hourly bus to bring tourists out of this onsen town to the other areas of Kyushu. I booked the tickets online a month ago but I did not realise that I did not choose the correct date. That's the second time I had to fork out extra money for bus tickets this trip, and luckily for me, no more hiccups after that.

The bus to bring us to Yufuin
We actually rushed onto the bus (being kiasu Singaporeans) to chope seats but there wasnt a need to do that, more than enough seat despite the crowded bus stop. The bus also stopped for 10min at a rest stop for us to pick up some snacks. It was still raining and was really cold outside. Brrrr.... We wanted to stay at night at Yufuin but it was weekend and the price of hotel in this small town was really exorbitant. There were many nice reviews about the place so we thought we should still pay a visit there and stay at the next nearby town Beppu. We also chose Beppu as we will be heading out of Kyushu to Hiroshima the next day, and Beppu is a more convenient place to get to the Shinkasen station.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Glamping Season 3 in Japan Day 2 (14/6) Kurokawa Onsen

P is really excited about this day as it's the NBA finals and I was really excited as it's the day we'll meet up with the guys and get to Sanga Onsen at Kurokawa area, this is one of the highlights of the trip. We were supposed to meet the guys at the station near noon after checking out from the hotel, get our lunch and catch the bus from Hakata Station. The others had flown in earlier than us but P and I were restricted by P's days of leave, J was going to meet us at the ryokan itself after getting there from Kumamoto.

Hakata Station was large but we managed to find one another at this spot
The steak lunh
We could not decide what to eat as usual and P's preference for steak became the deciding factor. We popped into a restaurant which served steak and P said the steak there was really good but I cant remember the taste at this point of time of blogging or the name of the restaurant, so I guess I still prefer the one we tried the previous day. Service was quite slow at the place and we only left just enough time to grab some snacks from Family Mart and ran over to the bus station to catch the bus. We walked past the area a few times the previous day so I was quite confident we can find the bus station, but the whole place was bigger than expected and when we reached the bus bay we were supposed to be, we waited and the bus did not arrive. The signage on top of the area also did not indicate it was going to Kurokawa. Usually the bus will get there punctually or minutes beforehand so it was quite strange. T was the only one who could speak a little Japanese and from the gestures of a lady at the stores, we realised with horror that there's a few levels at the bus station and we were supposed to wait at the 3rd level. I had taken bus from bus stations like this before but this was certainly the first time I had taken a bus from a multi level bus station. We ran up to the 3rd level but we were ten minutes too late and the bus had left with Japanese punctuality. We had no choice but to rebook the tickets for the next ride, fortunately it was just an hour wait as there were only four or five timings to get to Kurokawa area each day, and we had missed the second last bus. While waiting, we had even more time to restock our snacks, visit Daiso and 7-11 or Family Mart nearby.

The main ‘living room’

We could hear the sound of the river from this area

Kurokawa onsen area is a well known area for its onsen ryokan and the very zen outdoor onsen areas at those ryokan. It cost us a bomb to book a room here but we really wanted to splurge and give ourselves a good treat after coming all the way to Kyushu. We spent around 600 SGD for a half board stay at this very nice ryokan, I would say its the highest amount I had spent thus far on a hotel room, even more than the 500SGD stay at Windsor Toya Hotel a few years ago. We had planned to arrive early to enjoy the room, as we have our own onsen area in the room itself, but after the bus delay we only reached the place at almost 5pm. We managed to get the ryokan to send a shuttle bus for us as it's really at the far end of the Kurokawa area and there was no way we could walk there with our luggages. During the bus ride there, it started drizzling and the rain got heavier in the evening but we still went out to explore the area wearing the yukata and using the umbrellas they've provided.

P really loved this, our own private onsen in the room

Spoilt for choices here

Footbath area which we tried in the morning 

Nice rest area with burning wood

Female outdoor bath, came here in the morning but it was drizzling

The hotel lobby area

Y and T in the next room and we were the only guests on that level

View from our room windows
There were guests from other ryokans as there is a onsen hopping pass available for visitors at a fee, we did not get that as we arrived too late and we were only staying one night. The ryokan room with private bath was really cosy and nice, its really worth splurging to at least spend a night there, this was the first accommodation we booked and it was already full house when we did the booking earlier in March. Poor J was staying alone but she had to pay the money for a big room as there were no smaller rooms available. Luckily she managed to arrive early and did the onsen hopping.

Happy P in his yukata

Snacks and tea served

P posed for more pics
Shortly after our tour of the surrounding area, the sky had fallen and it was time for our dinner at the main dining hall. We were looking forward the the exquisite feast as I always loved the multi course kaiseki dinner delicately prepared during ryokan stay.
The starters

Names of our rooms placed at the table

Superb tasting grilled fish
The menu

After dinner, we went to J's room for a visit (hers is a separate cottage) and chit chat, it was still raining hard when we went back to our rooms. P and I went to soak in the onsen and then tucked into our warm futon and had a really good rest.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Glamping Season 3 in Japan Day 1 (13/6)

After we had two very enjoyable seasons of glamping with my pals at Hintok River and Hoshinoya Fuji the past two years, we started to plan for our third trip once the school year started. This time round E decided not to join us but P came along, so we had 5 people again. As P had limited leave, we were the last to leave SG and the rest were already in different parts of Japan when we flew off. 

Initially, we hesitated going to Japan again and we shortlisted a few places like Nepal, Norway etc but we decided on Japan again when we realised that all of us could travel on business class (two way) for just $800+ on JAL, this is a deal too good to be true. We found out how to use this miles trick from Milelion's blog here and we decided to fly into Tokyo and explore Kyushu area this time round. There wasnt really any glamping done but we had some really good onsen sessions during our stay. 

It was not easy getting the miles (we tried getting them at 40% bonus) and we started buying the miles over the CNY period, we only managed to do it after a few tries. Now on retrospect, I would say it was still worth it as I had enjoyed myself a lot this time and got a bit more addicted to business class travel as compared to my first time. I was really happy that P get to experience it as well. 

Our flight to Tokyo was at 1.50am but we were really excited and got ready way before 9pm. We got to the airport 4 hours ahead of time and used the Premiere Check in lounge to do our check in, it really felt like VIP treatment as there was this special path leading to the immigration from the lounge. There were a total of 3 lounges we can visit with our boarding pass. JAL did not have its own lounge in Changi Airport so we could go to British Airways and Qantas lounge (both under OneWorld) and the Dnata lounge. As BA lounge closes around 11pm, we decided to make our way there first. 

At British Airway's lounge, good range of drinks
It was pretty crowded as I guess there were many flights heading to London or other areas around 11pm. We did not have dinner so we took some staples and soup from the buffet. I thought the spread of food was underwhelming but this was an hour or so before closing so it should be better during the day. At least the drinks were good so I poured myself Baileys on rocks to wash down the food.

Soup, tasty satay, spring roll, masala and stuff
Somehow there's quite a bit of Indian food
The dessert and salad spread
The lounge from outside
We did not stay till closing and decided to hop over to Qantas lounge which is just next door. I thought that BA lounge was meh but Qantas was worse. It was big but cold and lack of ambience, there were also not many passengers around, probably the last few flights for the day had already left. The Qantas lounge closes at midnight but I guess I would skip it in future. I had already filled my stomach at BA but still ordered udon noodles and P ordered a 'Chairman Mao' soy sauce chicken dish with rice. There were not much of a buffet spread to speak of and the salad area gave off some weird vinegar smell, P took the potatoes salad but it smelled so weird that he deemed it had gone bad. The service staff looked cheery and were polite, one even tried to start a conversation with us but we left after a very short stay there. We did not really finish the food as we were quite full and the food were not worth the calories.

Qantas lounge

Food from Qantas lounge
We moved on to Dnata lounge next, I would say its the best lounge out of the three as the range of food was not too bad and the ambience was nice and comfortable. Unfortunately, I was feeling sleepy and full by this time so I didnt bother to take more pictures. The whole place was quite nice for lounging and waiting for our flight, so we just settled there. Fortunately, an hour before the flight at 1250am, the information screen at the lounge flashed and I realised the gate for our flight is already opened, so we started heading to the gate. We were expecting to board fast as we had priority boarding but there were lots of people with premium status who could board before us. Nevertheless, we were still excited when we finally get to board and P was extremely thrilled as its his first trip on business class. He kept telling me 'I'm so happy' and he was smiling from ear to ear when he got to the seat, just like a small kid.

Very comfortable seat, can fully recline
The amenities
Slippers and stuff inside the night bag
Very zen feel sitting watching the world goes by during takeoff
We looked really dumb taking lots of such photos
The overall experience on JAL for a red eye flight was really good as the seat could fully recline, I would say the seat was better than the SQ flights but of course the overall packaging of SQ business class was better. The night amenities bag was of good quality and the stuff inside were really useful (I tried almost everything including the moisturizing face mask) but I couldnt wrap my head around the idea of using a cheap red plastic bag for the good quality headsets. Why JAL? For this flight, we also chose the food (either Japanese or western breakfast) once we boarded and the Japanese option did not run out even though the business class seats were 60%-70% occupied. We could also choose to sleep through breakfast but of course I would not want to miss it since we were not having proper dinner or breakfast. At the price we're paying, I definitely got more addicted to taking business class compared to my previous SQ experience and would not mind doing this JAL trick again, since I fly to Japan so frequently.
Japanese breakfast

Shortly after takeoff, I turned back and P was already asleep. So I also reclined my seat and slept really well until it was time to wake up for breakfast. Somehow, flight in business class seems like a luxury itself and I did not mind if the flight was longer. The Japanese breakfast taste really good even though JAL did not have the book the cook option like SQ. There were all night snacks and food that we could order but I did not try any of those. When I woke up from my sleep, my nose was really dry and suffering and I was glad that there was a moisture mask in the amenities pack. My friends thought those were the beauty masks we apply on our face at night, but its actually a (3 ply?) surgical mask with a separate piece of wet cotton so that our nose can breathe through wet air after putting it on. I thought that was really very helpful and the cabin air became much more bearable after using it. We had a really good rest but P still fell asleep while we were waiting for the domestic flight to Hakata. I thought I was getting hungry so I picked up some snacks (my favourite Japanese food) while waiting for the flight.
Snacks I got while waiting for ANA domestic flight

For a start, we are flying into Kyushu Fukuoka airport, and I booked Dormy Inn Hakata Gion Natural Hot Spring due to my previous good experience in Dormy Inn hotel during our previous glamping, and also due to the good reviews online. It was a typical Dormy Inn hotel, room and amenities were new and there was an onsen in the hotel. However, it was a subway ride away from Hakata Station, the main train station where all the action was. We ended walking some distance to Hakata Station area for lunch and dinner. That made me question if I should have booked a room nearer to the station area, since we are not that particular about the hotel amenities and a more convenient location would be better for us instead. 

Anyway, P was really hungry even before we reached the hotel (as he did not eat anything since we touched down in tokyo) and he was bugging me to bring him to somewhere we can have a good steak lunch. *roll eyes*  We dropped our luggage and went out before we got too lazy to do so. I found a good steak place with great reviews on TripAdvisor, but it is near to Hakata Station so we had to walk some distance, it also gave us a chance to explore the area. 

Finally at the hotel

The dormy inn not so flattering pyjamas

Booked twin sharing so we have more space

The shower area
I keyed in the location on google map and followed the directions, but somehow we got lost as the roads were a bit messy near to the station and it was combined with the bus station and the mall. We thought it showed the mall so we went inside and searched the basement eateries and the surrounding areas. I was hoping P spot something else he'll like to try but he was determined to find the 'good steak place'. We found the Information Counter and we decided to try our luck, amazingly they did have a picture of the map to get us to the restaurant. I guess many tourists got lost looking for the restaurant so they were well prepared. We finally found it and I realised Google map brought us just a few steps away minutes ago, but I thought it did not look like a place for an eatery so I stopped walking.

Finally found the place

English menu showing that many tourists visit this steak place
Very nice and memorable steak experience
The eatery was half filled with people, and its a small Japanese which only had max 30 seats? We had to squeeze past people to change seats away from the door, and a lot of the patrons are tourists so we were given the English menu. We got there at 4pm and that was before the dinner crowd started coming, I read from TripAdvisor the queue will get long during dinner hours. Writing this post after the trip, we had steak (all thanks to P) most days of the trip and this steak meal was really one of the best. The steak or meat came raw and there was a little hot stone which we used to grill and heat up the meat. It was an interesting concept and the meat came out really nice. There was also free flow miso soup, rice and salad so we really felt full when we are done.

Free flow drinks at our level 

Dressing area of the onsen
We were really tired after this so we headed back to the hotel for a nap, I only slept for a short while and decide to get up and go to the onsen before it gets too crowded. I also brought our one day worth of dirty clothes along as I prefer to do laundry during the trip instead of bringing a luggage full of dirty clothes home. To my delight, they provide free flow detergent here. I guess despite the inconvenient location, people might still want to stay in Dormy Inn for the onsen and this laundry facilities.

Loved these washing machine and dryer

Free detergent for laundry

The onsen area

The entrance with pin code
The onsen emptied out when I was washing up so I was able to take those photographs and I do really enjoy soaking when the place is not crowded. We had our lunch and I came to the onsen during really irregular hours, I'm pretty sure we wont really get to see Fukuoka much after this but I'm still glad I had a good rest after the flight. I knocked out again after this while waiting for the laundry to dry and P napped till it was too late for us to get out again.  

The huge Hakata Station

Nearest Ichiran to the station but it was already closed
It was 9pm when P was really awake and recharged, I thought we would just have the Dormy Inn free udon since it was already so late, but he did not want to have that for dinner. We decided to go for Ichiran since Fukuoka is famous for ramen and it is also the birthplace of Ichiran. We navigated to the nearest Ichiran outlet near Hakata Station but to our disappointment, it closed at 10pm. We realised that there is another outlet at the canal city and we were not that hungry yet, so we decided to just walk for another twenty minute or twenty minute to get there.

Not a soul in sight at the shopfront when we reached

Typical Ichiran setup but for once the seats were all empty

Shape of the bowl quite different from the other outlets I've tried

The navigation to canal city was not that difficult but the whole place was huge and Google Map could not bring us to the exact location as the shop was inside the huge mall. We circled around the place for awhile before we finally found the shop. Unless the long queues I've seen at the other Ichiran outlets, this one was all quiet and for the moment I thought its also closed. There was nobody around the usual vending machine we bought the tickets and nobody to show us to the seat, but I knew exactly what to do. For the first time in my life, I could choose the booth I like to sit at. It was already 11pm when the ramen was served and some other Taiwanese/ Hong Kong tourists also walked in.

This blog post is really long as it covered what we did for the first 24 hour of the trip. I actually writing what we did months after the trip as I want to document as much as I can before I forget all about the experience.