The Quest for a Game

My current favourite video game is a sort of puzzle-rhythm game for the Nintendo DS called Elite Beat Agents. My brother introduced me to the game when we were home in the Philippines last December. It’s a good thing, too. I’ve been playing and enjoying the game since January while the game only got released in Australia just a few days ago.

The thing is, I’ve already played through the default level once and almost done playing the more difficult level. I just felt like it was getting a bit old. Although I still enjoy it, I want to be able to play new or different songs. I then realised that I should’ve also bought the original Japanese version of the game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! while I was still in the Philippines. I was pretty sure it was available there as my brother had one.

Then, a few weeks ago, I felt fortunate that we were going to Japan. I could just buy the Japanese game when we get there. As a side note though, the sequel of the game will be released in Japan a week after we return to Melbourne! Damn. Anyway, I’ve placed Ouendan on my what-to-do-in-Japan list.

I only started to actively search for the game about mid-way into our stay in Japan. I thought that it would be very easy to find. Just go to the rack where all the other Nintendo DS games are and pick it out from there. But, no. I didn’t find it in the first electronics shop I went to. In the second shop, I decided to get help from one of the sales people on the floor.

I tried asking him: “Osu Tatakae Ouendan wa arimasu ka?” I hoped I said “Do you have Osu Tatakae Ouendan?” correctly. Right or wrong, he started talking to me. Here’s the problem: I may know how to ask the right question, but I’m not fluent enough in Nihongo to understand the reply. I tried reading his body language but there was nothing. His face was expressionless and he wasn’t making any hand gestures as he talked.

I clarified to him that I don’t really speak Japanese very well: “Nihongo ga hanasemasen.” Translation: “I don’t speak Japanese.” which is actually a bit ironic since I’m saying it in Japanese. He started talking again and he was moving his two index fingers and thumbs to form a rectangle in the air this time. The gesture didn’t help any as I still couldn’t understand what he was saying. He could still be speaking in Japanese or a heavily accented English. I can’t really tell. I finally gave up, apologised (“sumimasen”) and left the shop. They probably didn’t have the game, anyway. I was definitely regretting my failure to brush up on my Nihongo before we went to Japan.

On our last full day in Japan, we went to Akihabara, an area in Japan known for lots of electronics shops. I didn’t realise that the place also had lots of manga and anime shops! Anyway, I digress. If there was a place I’d find the game, it must be there at Akihabara. We also did our homework before hand. I had Raquel write down the kanji (Chinese characters) for the name of the game on a piece of paper so that I could just show the piece of paper to the sales person next time. That should avoid any further confusion as to which game I really wanted.

The good thing about Akihabara was that more employees at the shops speak English. They were able to tell me that the game was just sold out, at least. After going through several shops, I finally found a shop that has the game in stock! At last, my search was over. I promptly bought it, of course. Mission accomplished.

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Comments (4)  

Language Barrier

Being a big anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese-word for comics) fan when I was young, I wanted to learn how to speak and read Japanese or Nihongo. I even took up Nihongo classes at the Japanese Embassy in Makati, Philippines in the 90’s. I was actually doing pretty good with me being fourth best in my class midway through. Unfortunately, I stopped taking the class due to other priorities and so my Nihongo never really improved beyond those I have already learned up to that point.

So, I’m not a total newbie when it comes to Nihongo. I could read hiragana and katakana (alphabet-like characters that make up Japanese words) just fine albeit slowly since I haven’t been practicing. That meant that if there is something written in Japanese that isn’t written with kanji (Chinese characters), I can read it out loud. Understanding what the words mean is a different thing entirely though.

That little skill actually helped us a little when we visited Japan last week. You see, the Japanese have borrowed a lot of words from English over the years and they write down these borrowed words in katakana. So, when I needed to know what’s on the menu, I scan for words written in katakana hoping they were borrowed English words. I was at least able to read hamburger, chicken, pork, beef, Coca-cola, Pepsi, ice-tea, katsu, curry and ramen off the menu.

In hindsight though, I should’ve been more prepared. I should have brushed up on my Nihongo prior to our flight to Japan. It would’ve have spared us a lot of misunderstandings.

I can say hello, thanks, excuse me, and other simple phrases. I can even ask basic questions. The problem was that I wasn’t fluent enough to understand the replies to my questions. Many times I had asked how much an item is and the salesperson would quote the price in Nihongo real fast. I had to ask him to write it down or enter it on the cash registry so I could see how much it was in numeric form. One time, I also asked where a particular place was. The person I asked replied but I couldn’t understand a word of what he said.

That said, if you have any plans of visiting Japan, I highly recommend you study basic Nihongo first. Unless you have friends there who can act as your guide, you’ll have a tough time trying to get your point across as most people you’ll come across there aren’t very fluent in English. Having a phrasebook without prior studying isn’t much of a help, too. I was able to say and ask what I want thanks to our phrasebook but I still couldn’t understand the replies of the person I was talking to.

Now that we’re back in Melbourne, I started learning Nihongo again. I know that it may seem like it’s a little too late for that, but I have another motivation now. I want to learn the language so I can read their books. Their art books, to be specific.

I was overjoyed to have found these various art instruction books in Japan. The only problem was that they were all written and Japanese and I couldn’t read any of it. Sure, I could still stare at the pretty pictures but the professional advice and instructions were lost to me. I actually bought two already and my aim is to be able to read them easily eventually.

I also wanted to learn Nihongo now so that next time we go to Japan, I’ll be ready. I loved it there. It’s already a few days since returning to Melbourne and I still daydream about Tokyo and Kyoto. Next time in there, I’ll be able to appreciate it a lot more than I did the last time.

Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our Japan Photos

It took us a while to upload, sort and caption the photos we took from our trip in Japan but we’re finally done. We actually took more photos that shown in the photo albums but we a lot of the other photos were either blurry or just plain redundant anyway.

I recommend you read the captions on the photos themselves as they would tell the story of what was happening on the photos. We also added some details on our trip on those captions as well. This way, we won’t be doing a day by day blog account anymore. However, I will still probably write future blog posts about some of the more striking things about our trip later.

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Tokyo, Asakusa and Ueno

Day 3: Kyoto

Day 4: Himeji and Shibuya at night

Day 5: Kamakura and Harajuku

Day 6: Tsukiji, Tsukishima, Akihabara, Shinjuku and Ginza

Day 7: Going Home

Published in: on May 6, 2007 at 12:25 am  Comments (3)  

Back from Japan

We flew back in from Japan yesterday and spent the rest of the day, well, resting. I must say that I really enjoyed our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. There were some communication problems due to my very poor Japanese language skills, but it didn’t diminish the great experience I had there.

I specially love the food we were able to eat there, from Japanese crepe to curries, from katsudon to tendons, from sando to hambaagaa. I’ll tell you more about it later along with some photos of our trip. Right now, I just wanted to let you guys know that we’re back safe in good old Melbourne.

Published in: on May 3, 2007 at 8:26 pm  Comments (5)  

In Transit at Changi

We are currently twiddling our thumbs here at Changi Airport in Singapore while we’re waiting for the boarding call for our connecting flight to Tokyo, Japan. We’ll be spending a few days in Japan and hopefully we’ll get a lot of sight-seeing done. Meantime, we have a few hours to kill here at Changi Airport.

Although we were fed twice on the flight over from Melbourne, I still felt hungry when we got here. The chicken pie and the vegie frittata the airline served wasn’t at all filling. Here at Changi, there are a lot of shops where we could buy food. The only problem was that we didn’t have any Singapore dollars.

Fortunately, the nearby foreign exchange counter said there wasn’t a minimum amount that we could have exchanged for local currency. So, we had $20 Australian changed over to Singapore dollars (around S$24). At last, we have the money to buy some food.

Since we’re in Singapore, albeit only in the airport, I didn’t miss the chance to eat Chicken Rice. Frankly, I’m so tired of this dish that I once considered my favourite when we used to visit my Dad in Brunei in my youth. But the Chicken Rice here seems different. It seems more delicious. Either that or I’m just really hungry.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to make another blog post though. I’ll just do back-dated posts when we get back to Melbourne if I can’t post anything while on the road. Anyway, I’m signing off for now.

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 10:04 am  Comments (2)  

Photo Galleries

Over the years, we’ve used different sites to host our photos. Now, I’ve created a new page on this site that links to these different galleries and list down the albums we have in it. You can go to that page by clicking the “Photos” link on the top header of this site. Or basically just click here.

I might individually link the albums listed in the future but I’m feeling a bit lazy right now. So, I hope the link to the galleries would be enough for now.

Published in: on April 23, 2007 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Lunch at Geelong

After spending the whole of Saturday outside (played badminton, went shopping, attended Elmer’s and Greg’s birthday party — Happy Birthday, guys!), me and Raquel planned to just stay in the house last Sunday. Didn’t happen that way though.

Around noon, we didn’t have any food to eat so we decided to eat out. Then we remembered Smorgy’s, the all-you-can-eat restaurant we saw the past weekend in Geelong. I was in a mood to drive to see the ocean anyway so Geelong it was.

It was surprisingly good value, actually, at only $14.95 each for the buffet lunch. I liked best the honey chicken, fried rice, rissoles, lasagna and the stir-fry vegies. Here’s the rest of their menu: Click here.

As expected from having eaten all we can, we were feeling very guilty. We definitely needed to walk off some of that food we’ve taken in. Fortunately, we have yet to see the remaining bollards we’ve missed from the weekend before. According to the tourism literature, the rest of the bollards are on the other side of the beach going to Rippleside Park.

I think we got all of the bollards this time though.

Published in: on April 16, 2007 at 9:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Easter in Bendigo

I’m so busy with work that it took me till today to post about something we did last Sunday. Anyway, we decided to spend Easter Sunday in Bendigo for Bendigo Easter Festival (from April 6 to 9). Bendigo is one of Victoria’s bigger cities out in north central Victoria.

We decided to let Melbourne Victoria Route Planner provide us with the simplest route from Werribee to Bendigo. Yeah, right. We drove through coarse roads we’ve never seen before that provided almost no signs as to where we were at any given time or where we’re heading. I was overjoyed when we finally got on the Calder Freeway which meant that we’d get to Bendigo if we just stay on that road.

We went to Bendigo for the big Chinese cultural events that they apparently hold annually every Easter. While waiting for the start of the major events, we dropped by the Yi Yuan Chinese Garden to watch some kids perform cultural dances there. Afterwards, we went to the adjacent Golden Dragon Museum which I actually liked very much. The museum has lots of historical and cultural Chinese artifacts from the 1800s when Chinese migrants left China to seek their fortune in Bendigo’s gold mines.

Of the Chinese Bendigo events, we specially wanted to see the Bendigo Chinese Association Awakening of the Dragon. From the event’s website:

Awaken the Dragon! Bendigo’s own Sun Loong is the longest Imperial Dragon in the world. Take part in a special Chinese ceremony to wake him out of slumber for his special appearance at Monday’s Gala Parade.

It was a very hot afternoon for it though. The sun was beating down on us. Thankfully, we had our backs to the sun. We went to the open plaza 15 minutes before the event was to start but even then, we were too late. All the seats were taken and the crowd has already gathered behind the seats. Thankfully, we were still able to find a spot where we could still see the event at the centre of the plaza.

We enjoyed the first several minutes of various cultural dances like kids doing a ribbon dance (click here to see our video) and the lion dance (click here to see our video). But after over an hour under the smouldering heat, we gave up waiting for the Awakening the Dragon event. We only stuck around for the smaller “Awakening the Lion” number which was too drawn out, in my opinion. After that, we just wanted to spend the remainder of the afternoon going around Bendigo.

Although, I liked the Chinese cultural portion of our trip, I also liked the Talking Tram Tour. The tram took us across Bendigo while providing very educational commentary about the community and its history. What I loved the most was when we stopped at the Tram Museum where all Victorian trams go to die, it seemed. A lot of old trams used in Melbourne were eventually transported there and it was great to see these antique vehicles up close.

All in all, it was a wonderful out-of-town experience and I’m glad we went. It was certainly lovely to see a different part of Australia.

Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 12:47 pm  Comments (3)  

Gallivanting in Geelong

Geelong (from the Aboriginal word Jillong), meaning the place of the sea bird over the white cliff, is only about half an hour’s drive away from Werribee. We’ve been to Geelong’s waterfront before but we thought we could explore Victoria’s second largest city a bit better. We drove there at about noon yesterday and headed to Pakington Street, where cafes and shops are supposed to be located according to Geelong’s tourism brochure. We parked our car near the community centre and strolled along the street and browsed at the some of the quaint shops there.

Feeling hunger after a few minutes, we went back to the car and drove to the esplanade where we dined on battered prawns with a side salad and a big bowl of potato wedges at the Wharf Shed Cafe, which was pretty packed by the time we got there. A few minutes wait and we were shown to our table near the back of the restaurant (not much of a view since all we could see from where we were sitting was the grassy area leading to the Carousel). The food was okay and cheap ($35 for the food and 2 bottles of softdrinks) and the service was fast. Customers could opt to pay right after ordering so bill-paying was pretty much hassle-free.

After lunch, we went to the Cunningham pier to take some photos. We discovered that there are two restaurants housed on the pier – Smorgy’s and Buccaneers. Geejay had a look at the sign outside Smorgy’s door and found out that the family restaurant offer an eat-all-you-can buffet. I think we’ll give that a try next time we’re in the area and perhaps we also wouldn’t be disappointed by the (lack of) views then.

One of the most recognisable icons in Geelong’s waterfront are the brightly painted bollards that are situated in various points of the esplanade. We took some photos with the bollards and realised that these bollards are in sight of the next one, making a trail for anyone who’d be interested in following these quirky artworks. Now, we’ve only ever been to Geelong a couple of times and we’ve stopped walking once we get to the Royal Yacht Club, thinking that there’s nothing beyond that point worth seeing. This time though, we were led past the yacht club by the bollards and were pleasantly surprised to find that there’s a baywalk along the beach on the other side!

We got to the Eastern Beach and realised that this is the place to be to soak up the sun, swim and have a BBQ. With its tall palm trees, enclosed pool beside the beach, fountains and beach umbrellas, the place is gorgeous to look at and an ideal place to laze the afternoon away with family and friends.

We stayed at the Eastern beach to catch our breath for a few minutes and continued on to the trail of bollards along the foreshore. We were now starting to get tired and sore from all the walking, this is just too much exercise for a couple of couch potatoes! We got as far as Limeburners Point to the last bollard we could see and headed back. Now we understand why some people opt to take the mini-train ride from the Carousel to the Eastern Beach, it’s a long walk especially if you weren’t prepared for it! Bikes and scooters for hire by the hour located near the Carousel area would be another good alternative to walking as well.

The number of bollards in the Geelong area totals to more than a hundred (reportedly 107 bollards in 48 different locations). We were able to photograph at 28 of the 48 locations so there’s still quite a number of them for us to find on our next trip to Geelong. Hubby commented that maybe the trail could be featured on the Amazing Race and they could have the teams take a photo of all the bollards as a task. Now, that would be fun to watch.

Published in: on April 8, 2007 at 7:46 am  Comments (3)  

Out in the You Yangs

I first heard the term “You Yangs” from an officemate of mine who lives in Werribee. This was before we live in Werribee ourselves. He commented about “getting lost out in the You Yangs” or something like that. I thought You Yangs was just a slang word for boondocks. It turned out to be an actual place.

According to Wikipedia, the name “You Yang” comes from the Aboriginal words “Wurdi Youang” or “Ude Youang” meaning “big mountain in the middle of a plain”. And it is the name of a regional park in the Werribee lava plains area.

We’ve lived in Werribee for a while now but we have never even seen the You Yangs up close so, yesterday, we decided to pay it a visit.

It didn’t take too long to get there. And when we did, we headed for Flinders Peak which supposedly only takes one hour to hike and climb and return from. Took us more than two hours for the round trip. We were exhausted but it’s good exercise at least. I needed some form of penance during Holy Week anyway apart from not eating meat.

Published in: on April 7, 2007 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment