Showing posts with label japanese traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label japanese traditions. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2018

Japan 2017 | Capybara Onsen @ Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園のカピバラ温泉}

The highlight of our Japan trip last year for Lil Pumpkin was to Tokyo Disneyland, but for the boy {ok, and for me too haha!} it was definitely to see the kawaii capybaras at Saitama Children's Zoo!!

Standing about 60cm tall at the shoulder, 120cm in length and weighing around 2kg, capabaras are the world's largest rodents... and probably the only ones I find cute haha. The semi-aquatic animals are native to Central and South America and live near ponds, marshes, rivers etc. for food and to keep its dry skin healthy.

Fun Fact: Capybaras are so trainable that in Surinam a blind man once used a capybara as a guide animal.

In Japan, they are arguably the country's favourite animal and became wildly popular in recent years thanks to the cute cartoon character Kapibara-san {カピバラさん} that's known to carry its smaller siblings / friends on its head.

You can find Kapibara-san in most departmental stores and can buy his products ranging from stationary, to lunchboxes, socks, towels, snacks, cups, notebooks etc.

Most importantly though, just like the Japanese, they looooove to soak in the onsen during the cold winter months!! Best if there's yuzu added in so that they leave feeling clean and lemony-fresh!

Early 2017, a "capybara onsen competition" {yes, that's a thing!!} was held to promote the interest and popularity of the capybaras in Japan. The first animal to enter the onsen for the day was timed and the winner, Umi from Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi, actually stayed in the park's onsen for nearly 5 hours!!! 

One fine day, we decided to take a road trip from Tokyo to Saitama Children's Zoo to see the capybaras.

It takes about 1.5hrs via train and bus to get there.. so we literally spent 3hrs on the road just to see the cute animals.

BUT IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, I tell ya!! haha

Even if you're not there to see the capybaras {what's wrong with you..?? haha}, Saitama Children's Zoo is still an amazing zoo to visit and you should definitely make a day's trip there with the family if you can.

Located in Higashimatsuyama, there are over 230 species of animals spread out over a vast, forested hill and there is so much to explore and do.

Don't expect a super modern zoo with high-tech facilities as Saitama Children's Zoo is rather dated. However, the rustic features make it even more charming and it's so nice just to get out of the city and breathe in the crisp, fresh air while admiring the animals at this suburban zoo.

Other than the animal enclosures and petting areas, the gorgeous free space available gives rise to a number of playgrounds, Dinosaur Corner {about 20 "life-size" dinosaur statues}, "mini amusement park" with rides, outdoor waterplay area, and even a Children's Castle {100yen/entry} with a talking tree, indoor play area, library, bar pool, cinema room and slides!

Lil Pumpkin definitely enjoyed her visit there!!

There are also mini kiosks selling chicken karaage and crepes dotted around the zoo for a quick snack, and quaint Japanese restaurants selling food like udon, soba, fried rice, omu-rice etc. to satsify hungry tummies that need more filling meals.

We had katsu-don and curry katsu rice which were both pretty good.

One thing I really love about Saitama Children's Zoo is how close to nature we were.

Even though it was the beginning of winter, the autumn leaves were still in full force there and it was just gorgeous walking underneath all the fall foliage!

I wish we were better prepared for momiji-gari {紅葉狩り, autumn leaves viewing}... mmmm, perhaps should have brought a mat or some snacks for a picnic??!

Anyway, back to the capybaras.

Saitama Children's Zoo has seasonal attractions and lucky for us while we were there, it was time for their Annual Capybara Onsen that's held every day from 18 Nov 2017 to 31 Mar 2018, 2.30pm - 4pm!! Too cute!!

You feel happy just watching them waddle in and soak to their heart's content but if you want, you can also get up close and personal with them. For 500 yen, you can soak your feet with them in the onsen for 15 mins and also walk away with a limited edition towel & certificate as memorabilia for your unique experience! It takes place 2.30pm - 3.30pm {tickets start selling from 2.15pm} to the first 12 pax only and is not available on rainy days.

The capybara enclosure is pretty easy to find...

Just about 10 mins walk from the main entrance {refer to the map above, and see a bigger Saitama Children's Zoo map here} past the park water fountain feature and up a small slope on the left.

The whole zoo is pram-friendly and there's a zoo train {200yen/ ride or 300yen/day I think} that goes around but I reckon it's really nice to trek around the whole park, especially when the weather was as cool as that day as you can go through the boardwalks in the forest that takes you amongst the trees.

Ahhh... I wish I could just chillax like these capybaras now...

Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園}
554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture {埼玉県東松山市岩殿554}
Opening hours: 9.30am - 5pm {last entry at 4pm}, 9.30am - 4.30pm {last entry at 3.30pm} for 15 Nov - 10 Feb
Closed on Mondays {except PHs} and 29 Dec - 1 Jan for New Year holidays
Entrance fee:  510 yen {adult}, 210 yen {child}
Tel: +81 0493 35 1234

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fitness Diary :: Tia Toomey & Rob Forte, CrossFit Games Athletes in Singapore!

CrossFit Games fever is slowly building up among the CrossFit community as the annual international competition is set to start later this month!!

For those new to CrossFit, the Open is the first stage of the CrossFit Games season and the largest community event of the year. Anyone aged 14 or older can compete in the Open and all you have to do is to sign up either online and log in your score each week.

For 5 weeks, workouts are released every Thursday at 5pm {Pacific Time}, and athletes have four days to complete the workout for the week and submit their score. You can do the workout as many time as you want {although they will definitely be pretty tiring and most people I know just do it once or twice...} and scores are due before 5pm {Pacific Time} the following Monday.

At the end of the Open, the fittest of each region will move on to the Regionals, and from there the top athletes from each regional event will move on to the Games.

Last year when I was more active in CrossFit and getting stronger during my PT training, I was pretty excited to join the CrossFit Games this year... however life threw a curve-ball and I had my back injury in September. I thought I'd still be able to recover well enough to participate in the Games this year but my recovery has been slow as it's hampered by my previous back problems.

I was really disappointed that I couldn't join the Games this year {Superman was very clear on that!}... especially when my CrossFit friends and the boy were busy registering and talking about it. Le sigh. I actually haven't been doing CrossFit for the past 3 months ever since the Halloween WOD to rest my back as most of the WODs would be too intense but hopefully I can be back at it in March.

But even though I can't take part in the Games, I definitely will be at my box to cheer everyone!! This year, the boy will be taking part in his first Games too!!! ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ

Last month Tia Toomey, 2nd Fittest Woman on Earth {i.e. 1st runner-up in CrossFit Games 2016} and Rob Forte, CrossFit Games athlete, were in Singapore to launch their sponsor's, Reebok, latest training shoe, the Reebok CrossFit Nano 7.

They also conducted a mass CrossFit session at Marina Barrage, and visited 3 local CrossFit boxes to conduct a WOD session with its members. Lucky for us, our box, CrossFit Mobilus, was chosen to host Tia and Rob, and even luckier still, the boy was one of the 18 participants taking part in their WOD class!

Not sure how the other boxes chose the WOD class's participants but in our box, interested members had to register with the staff and lucky ones were randomly picked via a ballot. I heard about 40 members submitted their names so the boy was really blessed to be chosen! (*^▽^*)

I went down to support the boy and my friends during the WOD and it was really an eye-opener watching these top CrossFit athletes perform some of the exercise movements and techniques...

... and I guess, very motivating for those that are taking part in the Games this year too!

The boy also got a little one-on-one coaching from Tia during the WOD for his cleans and thrusters (ノ*゜▽゜*) I think because he already did a strenuous workout that morning before this session, he was kinda tired and not on top of his game that day so it was really nice seeing Tia take the time to encourage him to push forward.

Took this with the boy just after he completed his WOD... Tia and Rob stayed on in Mobilus to do their own workout. It looks so challenging!

One for the memories! Thanks for coming to visit us!! Hope one day we will be able to see them compete live at the CrossFit Games, along with the other top athletes like Rich Froning, Khan Porter, Sara Sigmundsdottir, Josh Bridges etc.

Good luck to everyone taking part in CrossFit Games 2017!! °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

More on CrossFit:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fitness Diary :: Halloweeen WOD @ CrossFit Mobilus

One thing I really like about CrossFit is the community. The camaraderie CrossFit instills and celebrates amongst its members is amazing. It's a very inclusive community and everyone seems to feel welcome and part of the #fitfam ( ᐛ )و

And that makes the exhilarating, challenging workouts even more fun! I love the friendly competitions and enthusiastic spirit when doing the WODs and my fave kind of WODs are when they are done in teams.

Monday was Halloween and our box asked people to come in costumes to do the workouts that day. I was super excited!!! It's easy for kids to dress up as their favourite characters whenever they like but since I came back to Singapore I haven't really had much chance to cosplay anywhere so I was happy to find back my old Japanese maid {メイドさん} costume and wear it hahahaha.

CrossFit style, of course (*^▽^*) ... had my long sports socks and Reebok nano shoes on heh.

Lil Pumpkin dressed up as Sleeping Beauty too. Her Disney Princess dress is actually reversible and there's Snow White on the other side. When I bought it in Shanghai for her last year it was actually a little big.. now it fits her perfectly.

The boy thought of dressing up to but couldn't find a wig and gave up. Ah well..

We went in for the 5.30pm session and thank goodness that we were doing deadlifts! Wooohoo!! I wouldn't want to do cleans or front squats in case it destroyed my dress hahaha. This was our partner workout:

i. 10 x banded Hip Thrusters
ii. 10 x barbell Good Morning

i. Find 1RM Deadlift for the day {13mins cap} - 205lb / 93kg
ii. 5x4 @ 80% 1RM Deadlift - 180lb / 80kg

WOD {10mins cap, RDL @ 30% 1RM Deadlift - 65lb / 29.5kg}
i. 100m row + 5 RDL
ii. 200m row + 10 RDL
iii. 300m row + 15 RDL
iv. 400m row + 20 RDL

I partnered Dephne that day.. she's strong and hit her Deadlift PR that day!!

It has been a loooooong time since I lifted heavy so I was really happy to hit my Conventional Deadlift PR too! {although I did feel bad for not listening to Superman to rest my back.. #oops}

I usually do Hybrid Deadlifts and this was the first time I did so heavy for my Conventional... in my メイドさん costume no less, yay!!

Actually not many people came in costumes which was a bit disappointing, but I still had fun nonetheless.

I think word got out too late plus maybe not many people are into it especially if they have to come in after work haha.

I hope for the Christmas holiday workout more people will dress up though!! But..whatever should I wear??! hahaha

Ever dressed up in costumes for your exercises?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ebizo Ichikawa XI’s Japan Theatre Comes to Singapore + WIN Kabuki Show Tickets

Ebizo Ichikawa XI. If you are a Kabuki fan {or live in Japan since he is very popular there!}, you would have definitely heard his name. If not, you must have at least heard of the Japanese performance art form - Kabuki {歌舞伎}.

It is recognised as one of Japan's three major classical style of Japanese drama, along with Noh and Bunraku, and is known for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. The actors speak in a monotone voice and are accompanied by traditional instruments while the Kabuki stage is equipped with several gadgets, such as revolving stages and trapdoors through which the actors can appear and disappear. In 2005, it was also added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Originating from the Edo period at the beginning of the seventeenth century, both men and women acted in Kabuki plays but eventually only male actors performed the plays: a tradition that has remained to the present day. Male actors specialising in women’s roles are called onnagata {女形・女方}. Two other major role types are aragoto {荒事, rough style where actors use exaggerated speech & action) and wagoto {和事, soft style where actors use more toned-down and realistic}.

Kabuki is something that is uniquely Japanese. A lot of foreigners traveling to Japan will most likely not get a chance to see a Kabuki play as only less than a handful of Kabuki theatres e.g. Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo, hold shows daily. Most just have a two - five runs per year, each lasting a few weeks to a month so you really have to be in the right place at the right time.

Fortunately, this October, Kabuki is coming to Singapore. How exciting!!!

Ebizo Ichikawa XI, one of today’s most popular kabuki stars & scion of Japan’s oldest kabuki family, is coming here with Japan Theatre. They will be performing two Kabuki plays that have never been seen before, Uwanari and Mimasu Kuruwa no Kasauri. There will only be 3 shows available!

First performed in 1699, Uwanari is one of the famed Kabuki Jūhachiban, a set of eighteen kabuki plays that epitomise the Ichikawa family’s acting style. Though several of these plays continue to be performed in Japan, Uwanari had fallen out of the repertoire, at least until Ebizo Ichikawa XI chose to revive it. Now, after lying dormant for a century, this old classic will be reborn on the stage of The Grand Theatre at the Marina Bay Sands.

Uwanari, which means “second wife” and “jealousy”, is a torrid tale of jealousy, hate, and love. In it, a man divorces his wife and marries another woman. But while the newlyweds enjoy marital bliss, the jilted wife fumes, and plots her revenge on her ex-husband and the woman who replaced her. Passions will flare and dark schemes will bloom in this in riveting play, all told through impassioned dance.

Along with Uwanari, Ebizo Ichikawa XI will also be debuting a brand new, made-for-Singapore piece, Mimasu Kuruwa no Kasauri. Set in Edo {the old name for Tokyo}, the performance is centred around an umbrella seller in the Yoshiwara district. With his fine wares and irresistible charisma, the umbrella seller charms passers-by into buying his umbrellas, and conducts a brisk business until he’s beset by ruffians who want a piece of his profits. However, their attempt at intimidation backfires when the umbrella seller reveals himself to be Ishikawa Goemon, Japan’s greatest thief and outlaw. In a dazzling display of athletic prowess, Ishikawa Goemon soundly beats the thugs and sends them running, and is lauded as a hero by the entire district.

If you've always been fascinated by Kabuki's elaborately designed costumes, eye-catching make-up, outlandish wigs, and most importantly, the grand actions performed by the actors, then don't miss this opportunity to catch it right on our home grounds. Don't worry if you don't understand any Japanese language, as the performances are dance-based.

Since Lil Pumpkin and the boy have not watched a Kabuki play before, we'll be catching one of the shows for sure. Especially with the revival of Uwanari and the debut of Mimasu Kuruwa no Kasauri shows, I don't want them to miss the opportunity of witnessing Kabuki history being made!

Ebizo Ichikawa XI’s Japan Theatre 2015
Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands
Event period: Sat 17 Oct - Sun 18 Oct 2015
Ticket Price {excl. booking fee}:  S$89, S$115, S$$145, S$185, S$350 {VIP package}
Show Times: 3pm {Sat & Sun}, 7.30pm {Sun}
Duration: 2 hrs {incl. 20 minutes interval}
*No admission to kids under 4 years of age. Kids aged 4 years and above require a ticket for admission.

Also check out the rest of our Bub & Me activities or list of kid-friendly places in Singapore :)

For my own special friends & blog readers, I've ONE Ebizo Ichikawa XI’s Japan Theatre 2015 Kabuki Tickets Package {worth S$290} to give away!! It includes 2 x Category B tickets worth S$145 each to your preferred show on either Sat 17 Oct {3pm or 7.30pm} or Sun 18 Oct {3pm only} at Marina Bay Sands.

Giveaway Method: Random Draw

1. Be a Sakura Haruka Facebook page fan

2. Subscribe to my upcoming newsletter. Make sure the email add you used to subscribe is working as I'll be using that to contact the winner. Remember to confirm the subscription and check your junk folder in case the confirmation email goes there.

3. Like & Share this Facebook photo and tag 3 friends. Make sure your post is public!

4. Leave me a blog comment telling me your best advice to a kid starting P1/ going to a new school + FB name you used to like the page + name you used to subscribe to the newsletter. For those unsure of how to comment, choose "Name/URL" option then add your name and comment.

Bonus entry:
1. Follow me on Instagram {@AiSakuraHaruka}
2. Repost this photo on IG & tag @AiSakuraHaruka #ASHxKabukigiveaway #MarinaBaySands + your FB name. Make sure your post is public!

ONE random winner will be chosen. Just complete all 4 simple steps + bonus entry {if you like}!

* Open to Singapore residents only.
* Ends Sunday, 27 September 2015 2359hrs {Singapore time} 
* Incomplete or inappropriate entries will be deemed invalid and will not be included.
* Winner will be announced by Wednesday 30 September 2015 on this blog post and notified via email with further instructions on how to collect prize. Winner have 2 days to reply, or the prize will be redrawn.
* Winner can choose preferred show date & time at Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, subject to tickets availability.
* No refunds and prize tickets cannot be exchanged for cash value or resold.
* Everyone must have own ticket for admission. No admission for infant in arms & those under 4 years old.
* No photography or videography during performances.
* The organiser reserves the right to make changes to terms and conditions. 

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. The winner is Carol Mei Mei. Stay tuned for more blog giveaways on Sakura Haruka! Check out my current readers promos too. Thanks for your support!

* Disclosure: Ebizo Ichikawa XI’s Japan Theatre provided tickets for giveaway. All opinions are my own. Unless otherwise stated, image credits to Ebizo Ichikawa XI’s Japan Theatre.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hina-Matsuri {Japanese Dolls Festival} in Singapore

Hina-matsuri {Japanese Doll's Festival, ひな祭り} is an important Japanese festival on 3 March, especially for those families with girls. It's celebrated to wish good health and happiness for the daughters and families put up hina-ningyo {special Japanese dolls for the festival, ひな人形} on display shelves at home. These dolls are dressed in costumes of the imperial court with the Emperor {o-dairi-sama, 御内裏様} and Empress {o-hina-sama, 御姫様}at the top tier. Something like my photo above... except the dolls don't look like onigiris {rice balls} at all haha.

The dolls are usually displayed from Feb but it's bad luck to leave the dolls out for too long, so they have to be kept by 4 March. If not, it's believed that the daughters will marry late, or not at all.

Liang Court is celebrating the first-ever Hina-matsuri in Singapore from now to the festival next weekend, so we all went down to have a look and take part in one of the activities, Emperor & Empress Obento-making Workshop. I wore my yukata while Lil Pumpkin had her jimbei on :)

The workshop took about an hour and it was fun to make the kyara-ben {character-obento キャラ弁} with Lil Pumpkin! My mum is a pro with kyara-bens and I have all the obento tools, but I never really tried before as they seem quite time-consuming to make ;p After going through this workshop, I'm inspired {again!} to try and make these more often for myself & Lil Pumpkin. Kyara-bens are so cute ^^V

Lil Pumpkin was such a good girl and happy to help... and taste the food haha.

Ta-dah! Our Hina-matsuri themed Emperor & Empress obento. Not bad for a first attempt!

With the workshop instructor, Shirley. Thanks for the wonderful experience!

Liang Court, in conjunction with Tampopo restaurant, also brought in real snow straight from Hokkaido. This was a hit with the kids! It's free to play with the snow and the area is open from 2-9pm, this weekend and next.

Other Hina-matsuri activities over these 2 weekends include yukata photo-taking booths, origami workshops, Japanese Tosenkyo {traditional Edo-era game where players try to hit a target with an open fan、投扇興} games, and a record attempt to build Singapore's largest chirashi-zushi {traditional rice dish to celebrate the festival, 散らし寿司}.

On 3 March,  there will also be a "Girls Party" for the shoppers to mark the actual festival day with musical performances and free samplings of traditional Hina-matsuri food and snacks. All party guests will also receive an exclusive party bag!  You've to spend a minimum amont to redeem an invitation, or go dressed in a yukata for free entry. We'll be on a weekend getaway to celebrate our 10th anniversary so can't make it. Let me know if you go and show me the party pics!

After Lil Pumpkin had enough fun with the snow, we ate dinner at Saizeriya then went for a nice stroll along the Singapore River, which is just 5 minutes away from Liang Court. One of my favourite activities whenever we come here.

Such a beautiful weather for our stroll! It had been raining heaps the past few days but today the sky was clear with a cool night breeze. Perfect!

Before we left, we dropped by Meidi-ya at Liang Court to get some traditional Hina-matsuri snacks like hina-arare {rice puffs/crackers dyed white, pink & green for the festival, ひなあられ} and hishi-mochi {diamond-shaped layer mochi, 菱餅}. Meidi-ya is also having a Hina-matsuri Food Fair now.

Prettily-packaged Japanese candy!

Such intricate designs and all too pretty to eat!

A giant Empress Onigiri Music Box! Lil Pumpkin was rather amused with Empress Onigiri, who is part of the new Onigiri mascots for the shopping mall. If you spend a minimum amount, you can redeem a mini version of this musical box.

A nice addition to our muscial box collection :) it plays a lovely Hina-matsuri tune too.

Liang Court Hina-matsuri Festival
177 River Valley Road
Period: 15 February - 3 March 2013

Check out the other fun activities we did with Lil Pumpkin here or my list of Kid-Friendly places in Singapore.  Let me know if you have other recommendations :)

* Disclosure: The event coverage was due to an invitation from Liang Court for Hina-matsuri 2013 Celebration. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

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