30 April 2008

A post before the 4th Wedding Anniversary. =)

Hello there!

How time flies and it's going to be May from tomorrow! May is a very special month for my hubby and myself. =) Our birthdays fall in May, and this 1st May marks the 4th anniversary of our blissful marriage. =)

We are thankful to God for His wondrous love and deep grace for us, without which we often wonder how things would turn out to be. To this day that we still feel just married, we just can't thank God enough for the many blessings we've received. Through good times and bad, we pray that we'll continue to build each other, and be a blessing to our partner. May the Lord continue to fasten us with His hands always...

We shall be away for a short trip, followed by a few days of ' Golden Week ' holiday in Japan. So, if I don't see you at your place, do know that you're missed! =) Meanwhile, may your days stay blessed and gay...

Before we leave, I'll share what we've enjoyed yesterday.


It was a public holiday yesterday with a good weather. We went on a ride to some distant lakes and landmarks still cold. Much to our delight, sakuras were just begining to bloom there.


At the wide open with just 2 of us, we had the luxury to enjoy the landscape quietly...

I caught some houses by the lake, with occupants residing remotely from much-needed stores ( by at least 10km perhaps ). I guess tranquility comes with great inconvenience sometimes...?


Someone ever shared with me that, being enveloped in Spring's gentleness is a reward for those who've endured the harsh winter for so long, and I can't agree more =D. Just as tranquility may not come easy, to relish Spring simply spells several months of bitter winter and due endurance.
But I guess the pain of waiting and enduring is still worthwhile afterall. =)


My husband likes this sandwiched scene. =)


Though the tough days may come, behind them the better ones follow. You just got to have faith, be patient about the wait, and hang on. =)

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Sakuras of different shade of pink.


Now, another fact about Sakura today.

While many would have thought that Sakura is a unique blossom found only in Japan, this is not true. I've heard from friends and also read in articles, Sakura trees can be found in Korea, U.K., U.S., China, and other parts of Europe.


What makes Japan boastful about having Sakuras then, and always making Sakura viewing a grand way of visiting the country? Hmm... I'm not very sure. It is a fact that Japan has Sakura trees growing abundantly, and they love the blossom passionately. Perhaps, it is just their means of sharing their favourite things with foreigners.

This dessert on the left is my favourite Japanese dessert, called ' Sakura mochi '. ' Mochi ' is a crepe-like skin made from rice flour.

With filling of red bean paste, the entire bundle is wrapped with pickled leaf of Sakura tree!
The leaves are gathered before autumn in the previous year, treated for several months, before they are brought to shelves in Spring. These leaves carry a fragrance of somewhat cheap perfume, but upon savouring, the leaf, mochi and red bean paste certainly go together in perfect harmony. =) We are fortunate to have a prized confectionary that produces this, and I must have them every week. =P On Sunday when I got my pack, the lady told me that I was lucky to have it cos it was the last pack they could offer as they have run out of the pickled Sakura leaves. =D

Ok, I've got to run now and make some preparation. See you again soon!

28 April 2008

Laughing in the rain

Just a personal opinion though, I thought blue sky never fails to give pictures an amplified boost. =)

In Spring, snow-capped mountains are slowly restoring their original blue top. If the weather is bad, it is not easy to detect this feature at all as the moutains will be heavily husked with haze.

Taking a walk along the Lake Suwako is a delight especially in Spring and Autumn. Besides blooming in Spring, Sakura trees are dyed with amazing red and gold for an autumn trend.

There are times when blue skies fail to hold long enough, but they'd never rob the beauty of nature anyway.


Bed of Narcisscus with a Sakura backdrop.

There is a scene of sky after a rainstorm, that I would never forget. The clouds were dramatically folded into countless layers with distinct tones of grey, it was like having several zones of skies within the entire one! I was a teenager then when I caught the sight, and it never left my mind since then.

I hope that I'll be able to capture something close like that, in my lifetime.

It was drizzling again this day, but we were laughing in the rain. =) I hope that rainy days don't rob your reason for having a cheerful heart. Smile, have a blessed week ahead!

26 April 2008

Scented rain on a Saturday morning

Does it bother you when it rains?

It used to in the past, as I didn't enjoy being drenched. Not until when a good friend shared his views with me that changed my mind forever.

He said, ' It's a blessing to have rain. The earth is nourished with the help of rain. Every living thing depends on rain : plants, animals, us. How would it be if the earth runs dry? '

He was right. I've learnt to be thankful about this already-known-but-least-grasped-fact from then on. So long that it does not bring along natural disaster, we need rain indeed.


It was raining this morning, and my dearie offered to send me to the ballet class as usual. There on the way we passed by these rows of peach trees, and they were flowering in such lovely pink.

The gentle rain did not conceal the sweet scent from the flowers of peach trees. =) Joy overflowed when I heard the birds sing... were they larks? I wasn't sure, but I simply love singing of birds! A nearby stream was rushing in quick naughty waters, it was such an indescribable collaboration. The entire scene was perfect, as if prepared especially just for the 2 of us!

I couldn't explain why... I felt an immense joy and bliss though we were standing in the drizzle! God has made everything so beautiful!! We just have to understand His ways with nature and accept them, so that we may relish the joy of embracing everything blamelessly. It's just that simple. =)

I'm thankful for this day that reminds me of God's awesome works, and a good friend. =) Not forgetting, the special moment with my husband in this sweetly scented rain.

Here's dedicating B.J. Thomas's ' Raindrops keep falling on my head ' to you. I hope that you'd find your joy even on days that are less than perfect and not so sunny. God bless...

24 April 2008

When the sky is so blue...

My hubby told me that the weather could be very unpredicatable during Spring. True enough, the sky has been heavily veiled by tones of grey for almost 3 weeks! Then came this day when Mr. Sun decided to appear and paint the whole sky blue. =)

I was talking to dad the other day on a long distance call, he asked about my health and the climate. I admited that it was still cold especially on days without the sun, and he told me something like Singapore hasn't been sunny too for several days. He wondered where those blue sky days had gone, that he often saw when he was still as a child. He claimed that he has not seen any sky blue enough for so long... Or was he just plain busy to even catch a glimpse of the occassional blue sky...

On this sunny day, when I looked up and gazed upon the deep blue, I was wondering if this was what dad used to see during his younger days... How nice it would be if he could join me for a walk at this moment...

Is there anyone that you think of, when the sky is so blue...

Oh, I'm sorry about bringing in such blue thoughts... I guess I still miss my family afterall. Everytime when I enjoy something in Japan, I always thought of how marvellous it would be if my family in Singapore could share a moment of same bliss with me...

Alright, let's walk...


Nobody should pout on a day like this! Even the trees looked smiley! =D We enjoyed a quiet walk along this road and admired the blossoms carefully. There were just 2 of us and the road felt like it was ours. HAHAHAH!!!!

As you can see, these trees are round, plump, growing sideways and upright, unlike those willow-like Sakura trees that I've mentioned in the earlier post. I really like these trees much better! =D Oh but of course, nothing against the willow-like ones. =)))

For those growing on mountains, hills or unreachable grounds, they are growing wild! No, it wasn't me. The wind did it. =P Isn't it difficult to differentiate between the planted trees and wild ones? What do you perceive from the picture above?

This is actually a lavendar garden. See those grey bushes on the ground? Sprouts of lavendar are sneaking out from them from late July. Suddenly, it just came to me... just how NICE if Sakura, lavendar and fresh green could be staged together at the same time! Like those stars performing at MTV award show and etc, you know what I mean? My husband chided me for being ' greedy '. He said that God made nature this way so that the flowers could get their due attention in their short lifetime, without unneccessary rivalry. Flowers of different kinds bloom in periods apart, so that they can offer joy to men from spring to autumn.

He's absolutely right!! I want my salad, cold dish, main dish, fruit and dessert in the most fitting order. Not a big plate with everything tossed and mixed together!!! Ok, does this sound in anyway relevant to my hubby's theory? =P

Look! How the mountain was dotted with clumps of pink! I was lost for words at this magnificient sight until my imagination started running wild. What if those round pink fellas were bushy monsters and came running after me? Where was I supposed to run cos there were so many!! Oh no* Oh... and then my husband came pushing me at the back to make me move on. Oh, I was so glad that it was not a pink monster... =D

We treaded on, and past by these statues in the garden. Some typical Japanese Buddhist statues, but I thought the mini ones in front were cute. Now, let's have a quiz. Do you notice anything special about these statues? Take your time to find out before you scroll down for answer.

I say, no cheating...

GOT IT? This cheeky fella was facing the sidewalk to greet the visitors. I couldn't stop laughing when I noticed it! Oh but I doubt many could see it cos most people would have been so engulfed by the pretty scenery all around!

Just see how pretty they are even if they are wild.

I really enjoyed this walk with colors of blue, white, pink, yellow and green. Don't you agree that God is such a magnificient artist?

If only blooms take place within seconds...

And transform from a bud into flower in a blink! I miss Discovery Channel. They have those ' fastforward scenes ' that show how flowers bloom, babies hatched from eggs and etc. I've always enjoyed documentaries on nature. =)

See what my hubby meant by an ever-changing weather during Spring? This was taken an hour after we left the lavendar garden. Mr. Sun went on a strike again. He wasn't receiving his wages, you see.

If Mr. Sun was in a good mood, we would have been fortunate enough to see the alps behind those cloudy parts above the mountains.

A family taking pictures after their picnic under a tree. I hope they had a good time like us, with the earlier sunshine. =)

What a contrast. Which do you prefer, white or pink?

A forest of Sakura trees. ' Probably, they would really turn into pink monsters if they were under a spell... ', I was giggling along the track, trying hard to avoid my hubby's suspicious darts.

Ok, these were enormous, strong... they had countless extending arms and...

They've ruthlessly encircled the whole hill!!! I could run but I couldn't hide!!! And I went giddy when I realized the height and then... my husband asked me for a different lens to take this picture. =P

It was getting cold and dark when we called it a day, but we were satisfied. I was still thinking about those pink monsters and probably giggled much in between, cos my husband kept on checking my looks. I know that he prefers a silly me rather than the gloomy side that appears whenever my mind travels back to Singapore. I certainly hope that one day, my family would take time to join me for such a fine season in Japan.
I hope that you've enjoyed the walk too, and maybe, you'd be tickled by the ' pink monster ' wild thoughts also. =D

22 April 2008

Spring in Nagano & Matsumoto Castle (松本城 )


Sakura ( 桜、Cherry Blossom ) has started blooming in various parts of Nagano! Now, is this good or bad, cos I'm going to share a series of this flower over a good span of time. So, please bear with me. =)

Introducing Matsumoto Castle ( 松本城 )

Matsumoto Castle is the only tourist spot that I can think of at the place that I'm staying and to find the next, every location would have to take more than 2 hours for travelling! This castle built in the late 16th century is crowned one of the National Treasures of Japan. It is one of those castles spared from cruel bombings during the WWII and thus able to retain its original face till now. Matsumoto Castle has a title of the ' crow castle ' as it is built with a rather dark tone, compared to other castles in Japan. If not for the moody weather, a gorgeous row of northen alps will stand behind the castle and project an excellent view. By the way, it is not tilting like the famous Tower of Pisa, purely, my wrist was failing me. (**)

The castle is surrounded by a deep pond at the front, to prevent easy invasion of enemies. It is once claimed to be the most difficult castle to break in. Now, visitors get to walk in and out of the castle as one wishes, at a mere charge of 250yen at normal days, and 3 times the normal charge during Sakura season like this.

The castle is practically surrounded by Sakura trees of fine species, planted by men. Unlike Sakura trees in the wild, these trees are probably fuller by slightly 2 times in volume. Let's take a walk around the castle, though these pictures are taken on a rather bad weathered day.

The blossoms may be plentiful, but one must refrain from plucking these flowers! In some places where guards or workers are on duty, offenders will receive a warning by a loud whistle, followed by hostile glares. I've also seen senior citizens reprimanding Japanese offenders in a harsh manner. Japanese are people who believe in protecting even the most insignificant lives. Umm... though I seriously feel that they are contradicting people sometimes.... Anyway, just never ever pluck the flowers.

Sakura's full bloom can only be enjoyed in a mere week's time. Its short-lived beauty is so appreciated by the Japanese that they make sure Sakura exists all over Japan. Therefore, Sakura planted, or wild, spreads throughout the country. As the climate gets warmer slowly, blooms occur beginning from southern Japan up to northern part over approximately 2 months' period. Visitors would need to study the forecast and select the viewing location very carefully. Yet I know too well that many foreigners would go home without pictures of sakura, mainly due to unfortunate tour schedule and etc. Hmm... frankly, even locals are caught up in the same predicament alike, for these flowers are so unpredicatable at times! Locals do actually monitor them no less at all.

One good thing about enjoying Sakura viewing at areas other than crowded cities like Tokyo, the population is less dense so it won't be like an almost stampede affair. To know more about Matsumoto Castle, click here.

I caught this stork standing still.

My husband found this birdie swinging on the lean branched tree. So, we're calling it even this session. =)

Besides designated places, Sakura can be seen almost everywhere! This may not apply to bigger cities like Tokyo as they have obviously lesser land to spare. Here, they stand along roads, schools, government offices, facilities, outside households, and not forgetting, Japanese shrines. If you'd like atmospheric pictures of Sakura in Japan, do visit reputable shrines and they should be almost picture perfect spots.

At most large shrines, fine Sakura trees are generously planted too. While I love plump and heavy blossoms, my husband prefers these willow-looking Sakura. He claims that these are truly characteristic ones and generally more precious than others. The older the tree, the larger and wider it spreads, like a huge umbrella with many descending arms. Shrines often have this kind of Sakura, with most of them rather old, so; if you love them...

This is so huge that I couldn't capture the whole thing unless I get close enough, or much further away from it!

Pink curtain over the fresh green carpet. I thought this is pretty.

A view within the shrine.

I'm hoping to share better ones later, so do tune in again!