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Reminiscing Japan at the Flower Dome

Monday, April 19, 2021 / No Comments

The pandemic has wrought upon many severe misfortunes. Physical anguish, economical strangulation and emotional turmoil are not uncommon consequences faced by our international peers as the virulent virus threatens to engulf the world in its belly of torment and misfortunes. However, in some areas of the world that have managed to marginalize the debilitating detrimental effects of the virus, trivial misfortunes have magnified in dimension and depth, paving the way for new avenues in which garulous discussion and social dialogue can flourish. In Singapore the increasingly mundane level of new community infections have opened up a vacuum for the globetrotters to discuss and lament over their anguished incarceration to their homeland, a condition made critical by the seemingly invincible momentum of the virus, raging like wildfire through vast regions of the world.

Such a luxurious misfortune has urged some to explore the more well-hidden gems of their homeland or perhaps to attempt to discover a region within the motherland that may provide some sense of foreign nostalgia through design based on mimicry and imitation. As a patient who also suffers the diagnosis of mild internationalsickness (as opposed to homesickness), I have found myself to be a little longing of the trips I made to Japan during the halcyon days of free travel. One region that has provided some degree of that aforementioned nostalgia, duplicating in a fashion not at all pretentious nor dubious of the culture it has referenced, has been the Flower Dome.

Situated within the Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome is a stupendous glass greenhouse, listed by the Guinness World Records in 2015 to be the largest of its kind. While it boasts a plethora of exotica and probably sounds more like a horticultural student’s dream come true than a globetrotter’s ideal destination to fantasize of foreign lands, the Flower Dome also undergoes seasonal changes with regard to its décor and theme, one of its recurring themes being the famous Hanami (flower viewing tradition). 



Just about every year during the cherry blossom season, dozens of imported cherry and peach blossoms bloom in the center of the Flower Dome, fostering an atmosphere and illusion that helps one to delude themselves of their geographical location. The temperature in the Dome is set to brumal to aid the budding and blossoming of the flowers, enhancing the credibility of the illusion as the sharp departure from the sweltering, tropical climate fools the sweat glands and pain receptors. Visual receptors are of course, subjected to the full force of the façade as the mesmerizing unmistakable shades of pink in their soft, pastel graduations guarantee the authenticity of the illusion. In the unlikely event that the flowers fail to captivate and inspire your imagination, the mighty Torri gates, red-crowned cranes, Shoji and other omnifarious Japanese themed décor is sure to at least confuse your compass momentarily. 


Being the national flower of Japan, the Sakura displays have been a consistent favourite over the years. The long queues during this period makes its popularity evident and even with all the crowd control measures and restrictions this year, the Dome is still far from sparse and spacious. This unique appeal is attributable perhaps not only to its intrinsic charm and beauty but also to its enduring symbolism of ephemerality which emphasizes the transcendental nature of life, beauty as well as the inevitability of mortality. The flowers have such a strong sense of symbolism that it has been embraced by the Japanese military as well, notably in the last coded message of a Japanese colonel who communicated the words ‘Sakura, Sakura, Sakura’ to notify the Japanese HQ that the island of Pelelieu had fell before committing suicide during World War Two. An even more morbid but lesser known use within the Japanese culture has also been to bestow upon the kamikaze pilots the evanescent quality of the Sakura. This association was undertaken in order to fan the flames of the Japanese nationalistic spirit, where it was not uncommon for such pilots to be accompanied by branches of the Sakura tree as they took to the skies for their final mission. With such an intense symbolism underlying the innocuous beauty of the Sakura, the combination of both renders the Sakura not only a pleasurable sight but also one that evokes a deep sense of culture and history. 

This year, the Hanami featured another fan favourite alongside the flowery splendour. The iconic Hello Kitty brought another dimension to the foudroyant display and there was a designated location within the Dome to take a shot with an immaculately trimmed Hello Kitty topiary that was among the more prominent of the Kitty displays interspersed throughout the greenhouse. The site was so popular that crowd control officials had to be stationed to avoid overcrowding, evidencing the popularity of the inimitable icon that has a market value in the billions.

However, the pandemic’s interference with this year’s Hanami was palpable not only by the masks and crowd control but also by the removal of several key features that were present last year. For instance, one could no longer slip into traditional Japanese wear before taking picturesque shots of the floral exuberance. In addition, the multitude of Japanese stores that were usually brought in to sell tea, food and other paraphernalia had been left out as well. These changes have definitely diminished the vibrancy and vitality of the atmosphere leading to a more silent and pensive mood.

Still, even with the accommodations made to the pandemic, there is probably no better place to celebrate the Hanami in Singapore and to relish in the ravishing nostalgia of Japan. For those who wish to experience the Hanami in the upcoming year, it would probably be ideal to visit during the mid-term of the Hanami to witness the flowers at full bloom. (Towards the exordium and end phase, one cannot help but notice the bleakness of the trees especially when juxtaposition is made with the images captured on brochures.) While it may make sense to capitalize on a nice jacket considering the chill of the Dome, it is equally wise to embrace the ‘surprising’ chill of the Dome with a significant other by substituting the jacket for a more intimate experience. However, for those that are not afforded the luxury of choice, that nice jacket of yours is probably a good idea, especially if your body has been acclimatized to the torture of our climate.

Written by Z

Shrine and Temple in Tottori

Saturday, August 17, 2019 / No Comments
Beside a scenic view of the sea is the Hakuto Shrine, which enshrines the spirit of a rabbit based on a famous myth. This rabbit is commonly known as the White Rabbit of Inaba, with Inaba being the name of the province that later became Tottori Prefecture.
The myth follows the rabbit on one of the Oki Islands, who wished to travel to the mainland. He bragged to the Wani (crocodiles) that the rabbit clan was larger than the crocodile clan, and to prove this, he suggested that all the Wani
The rabbit was on one of the Oki Islands which lie about fifty kilometers offshore, and he wished to travel to the mainland and so devised a plan. He bragged to the Wani that the rabbit clan was bigger than the Wani clan and to prove this, the Wani should line up and the rabbit would set off counting them each as he made his way towards the mainland. 
Unfortunately, the rabbit couldn't resist shouting "Ha! Fooled you!" before reaching the mainland and the enraged last Wani grabbed the rabbit in his jaws. The rabbit managed to escape but had his skin stripped away by the teeth of the Wani. 
This story is now interlocked with another myth: the Yasogami, which features 80 brothers who were by large, rather cruel. These brothers were on the way to meet the beautiful princess Yagami, who was to choose one of them to wed. Upon coming across the injured rabbit, they suggested that he should soak in the sea then stand in the wind, which would worsen the rabbit's condition. 

The kindhearted youngest brother, Okuninushi, came up from the rear while carrying his brothers' luggage and suggested that the rabbit should soak in freshwater then wrap itself with sedge grass. The healed rabbit then told Okuninushi that the princess would choose him, which she did, and this gained popularity as the first love story in Japan's ancient myths, hence contributing to Hakuto's shrine reputation for matchmaking.
This shrine is located right next to a road and is accessible without any hiking. It's definitely worth the time and effort to pay a visit to this shrine, especially if you are in the area. Apart from the shrine, you are also able to enjoy the beautiful sight of the coast!

For temples in Tottori prefecture, I will recommend Kiyomizu-dera, It is definitely smaller than the Kiyomizudera in Kyoto and less popular than the famous Kannon-in, but it has the perfect atmosphere of a temple.
The temple is a little off-ways of a side road and the main common area is atop a flight of stone steps.

There is a long stretch of Torii gates if you are the kind that has to go through Torii gates to feel like you're at a place of worship. At the end of the line of gates is a small shrine. However, this is not all that Kiyomizu-dera has to offer!
There is a pagoda if you walk further up the temple grounds! All the architectural beams and beams are intricately carved and arranged to form the shape of the pagoda.

In addition, you can even go up the pagoda if you happen to be there when the attending monk is present! You will have to check the timing before you go to Kiyomizu-dera as it changes based on the months though.
Be sure to check out these two places when you head to Tottori!

~ Reina-rin

Tips to know before going to Japan

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / No Comments

Tips to know before going to Japan!

Planning a vacation to the land of the rising sun? Not sure where or when to go? Fret not, I have compiled some tips and tricks in this article for you travellers that are planning to have a good time in Japan.

What’s the best time to go to Japan?

So you’ve already determined to go to Japan. Great for you. Exhilarated, you start packing your clothes, socks and snacks to prepare for the trip. However, you’re faced with a dilemma soon after; when do you go? 

The 4 seasons of Japan

Japan has four distinct seasons: Spring (March to May), Summer (June to August), Autumn (September to November) and Winter (December to February). The climate and temperature vary based on season and region. Each season also offers various attractions and sightseeing spots that can only be best enjoyed in a particular season.


The most popular time for tourists to visit Japan. With temperatures varying from 12 °C to 20 °C, it’s the most suitable time to sightsee Mt Fuji as well as feast on the sight of the famous cherry blossoms. It’s also the best overall time to go to Japan considering there are many festivals and public holidays such as the Sakura Matsuri. Be sure to pack moderate clothes like a jacket as well as a light coat since temperatures can get cold!


The only and perfect time to go to the beach! Weather in Japanese summers can get very hot and humid so be sure to wear lightly with T-shirts and shorts plus a hat for the sunshine. Summer can get very packed even without tourists as the school holiday shares the same period. Due to this, you may see hikes in prices in hotels and resorts, as well as an absurd amount of people at the beach as well as amusement parks. Summer also houses the Natsu Matsuri festival, a traditional summer festival, as well as other smaller festivals. Lastly, if summer is your go-to pick, be sure to watch the summer fireworks that are held almost every week!


Normally dry and warm at later, autumn in Japan meets the typhoon season during September, which can ruin your fun trip. If you avoid the typhoon season, you can enjoy the bright and colourful autumn leaves, along with the beautiful nature. The temperatures are similar to Spring so you can wear light clothes such as a jacket and a coat. Halloween is also in the events list for autumn and Japan is one of the countries that highly celebrates Halloween with many special events as well as special attractions at Universal Studios and Tokyo Disney Resort!


The perfect time for skiing and skateboarding, Japanese winters are one of the best out there with tons of activities as well as festivals celebrated all around the country. However, since it’s close to New Years as well as Christmas, it can get pretty packed, which means that most tourists spots like hotels, resorts and other accommodations will be crowded. Most tourists recommend skiing and skateboarding in winter so be sure to visit Hokkaido and Nagano for snowy mountains and breathtaking views. Of course, wear warm and heavy clothes to combat against the freezing 3 °C weather in Japan. 

What do I do in Japan?

You’re in the airport, stoked to finally be in Japan and can’t wait to venture to your heart’s desire. But where do you go? How do you enjoy the Japanese experience?

Hotels and residence

If you’re looking for a place to stay while in Japan but don’t know what’s best for you, I’ll list out some hotel choices that vary from traditional to straight out of a sci-fi movie.

Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku - Located in central Shinjuku just a 4-minute walk from Shinsen-Shinjuku Station and JR Shinjuku Station, Hotel Sunroute Plaza features rooms with satellite TV and free WiFi.

ONSEN RYOKAN YUEN SHINJUKU - Attractively set in the Shinjuku Ward district of Tokyo, the hotel is located a 17-minute walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, 1.8 km from Zenrosai Hall Space Zero and 2.3 km from Yamano Hall. 

nine hours Shinjuku-North -  An odd but fascinating area to stay in. Located just a 2-minute walk from JR Shin-Okubo Station, nine hours Shinjuku-North offers capsule units in Tokyo. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property. Their capsule rooms are their main attraction.

These are only some of the places you can opt to stay at. As it’s located near popular areas, it would make it easier for you to enjoy Japan to its fullest. If you’re not too keen on these and want to enjoy Japan at it’s most traditional, the next option might just be the one for you!

Ryokan – Ryokans date back to the 17th century, back in the Edo period. At that time, guests slept on tatami mats rolled on the floor. The tradition has been preserved in the form of a ryokan. If you prefer to stay at a Japanese traditional inn instead of a modern hotel, ryokans are a good choice to consider. Generally paired with an onsen (hot spring baths), you can fully enjoy the Japanese experience. Most serve a delicious breakfast/dinner set at the ryokan so you don’t have to worry about your stomach rumbling.


Now that you’ve found your residence for your period of stay, a familiar feeling washes over you. You crave something in your stomach and walking past all the delicious-looking food stands and restaurants only made your hunger spike. Faced with countless food choices, what do you eat?

Udon – A type of noodles made with flour that’s frequently eaten with soup stock. A staple food of the Japanese, udon come in many varieties depending on the restaurants. Finding your favourite one can be quite difficult if you’re a fan of noodles.

Takoyaki – Deep-fried dough in the shape of a ball with different fillings inside. Mostly served with bonito flakes, takoyaki can be found almost anywhere in Japan.

Tonkatsu – The world’s first pork cutlet restaurant originated in Japan and to this day, many tourists and locals frequent the humble outlet. Tonkatsu is basically deep-fried breaded pork cutlet.

Soba – Soba is the thinner version of udon, made from buckwheat or wheat flour. They can be served either in a hot broth or a cold broth with a dipping sauce.

Ramen – Joining the noodle siblings is ramen, wheat noodles served with toppings like seaweed, menma and green onions in a meat or fish-based broth.

Well then, you’ve had your fi-

No. No, no, no. You can’t be serious. You’re in Japan for the first time but you’re not going to try out genuine Japanese sushi? Surely you have room for sushi!

Sushi – More of a premium meal, sushi in Japan is topped with fresher ingredients and a different environment than most places. What's distinct here is the fact that you can see the sushi chef preparing your meal, right in front of you.

Places of Interest

Alright. With a full stomach, it’s time to go sightseeing in some of the most beautiful places Japan has to offer.

Shibuya – The world-renowned “Scramble Crossing” can be found near the Shibuya Station. With nearly 2.8 million people a day crossing the intersection, it can make the perfect selfie. Be sure to reach the other side of the intersection before the lights go red though!

Akihabara – If you’re a fan of the Japanese sensation, animes and manga or anything game related, then Akihabara is the place for you. It’s filled with shops full of animes and mangas, PC cafés and more. If you search hard enough, you might even find the legendary maid café!

Hitsujiyama Park – If you’re travelling to Japan during the cherry blossoms season, then you should add Hitsujiyama Park to your to-do list. It offers one of the best cherry blossoms viewing locations. It has over 3 different colours of cherry blossoms and is a picturesque view for many!

Okinawa – Scattered off two and a half hours from Tokyo by plane, the Okinawa islands are known to be the best place for a tropical retreat by many locals. It not only has an astounding beach but it also has a rich history of being an old kingdom.

These are only some of the places that you can visit in Japan and if you’d like to know more, be sure to research to fully enjoy your first trip to Japan! With that said, I’ll be presenting you with a few obscure tips for you first-timers that may help you a little while in Japan.

1.    If you think using a chauffeur is too expensive, public transportation is still a good choice as it’s very efficient and can get you to almost anywhere in Japan.

2.    Learn basic etiquettes and customs. There are some rules that you need to know as it can often be seen as rude if you don’t do so. Entering someone’s house with shoes on and taking photos of people are some of those things to take note of as it can be seen as such.

3.    Do not tip! Even if you think the customer service was exceptional or you think the food was delicious, it’s seen as rude in Japan to tip.

4.    Don’t cause a ruckus. While it may be normal in your home country to socialize and talk loudly, it’s not the case for Japan. Even your “library voice” might be too loud for Japanese citizens too so try to speak in a way that it’s only audible to your group.

5.    Lastly, I’ll add my tip for travelling. Make sure to exchange your currency to Japanese yen in your home country to avoid poor exchange rates in Japan.

That brings an end to my tips to know before going to Japan. Whether you’re going there for a business trip or a vacation, it’s always good to know what you can expect before reaching there to avoid unexpected situations. If you’d like to know more about Japan, I suggest doing some homework on the Internet, it has many materials for research and you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for. Lastly, I do hope that you enjoy your trip to Japan!

Written by Yeon Hee

Skip Osaka and Kyoto. You should pack your bags for a holiday to Tottori, and here's why

Thursday, February 7, 2019 / No Comments
Osaka? Kyoto? No, instead pack your bags for a holiday to Tottori Prefecture. Because...

Tottori is a foodie’s paradise!
Not only do you get delicately plated kaiseki dinners from ryokan in the area, you can even indulge in sweet treats as Tottori is famous for their wide array of sweet treats, ranging from the usual Japanese-style wagashi to rich swirls of their milk and pear ice-creams.
≧(´▽`)≦ So delicious~~~
Although you might not have gotten this impression from the sightseeing-focused advertising done by H.I.S.Travel and partnership with Sony Entertainment, but take the word from someone who has just been to Tottori for fall 2018 – Tottori is indeed filled to the brim with mouth-watering delicacies! In fact, I daresay that if you love beef and seafood, you definitely wouldn’t want to miss a trip down to Tottori!
The tuna just melts on your tongue (❁´▽`❁)*✲゚*
And here’s three reasons why you should plan a page in your itinerary for Tottori alongside your trip to Kyoto or Osaka -- or rather, scratch that and forego those two major cities altogether and take a look here for my itinerary for inspiration on how to spend two fulfilling weeks just in Tottori alone.

Now, let’s get started. ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ


1. You can eat wagyu beef crowned as Best in Japan!

Food is akin to a sanctuary for Singaporeans, and we all know that Japan is a paradise as far as food goes. Exquisitely plated seafood, picture-perfect fruits, creamy dairy products… you name it, and Japan has it; but putting all of those aside, we have something in another realm of its own -- wagyu beef.
When it comes to wagyu, the first thought that usually comes to mind is Kobe beef. And while that is not wrong, wagyu simply refers to Japanese beef, and Tottori has their very own kind of wagyu beef as well: more specifically, the kind that was crowned Best Wagyu Beef in the 11th National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu (a.k.a. Wagyu Olympics) in 2017. As the Olympics is only held every 5 years, rest assured that you will still be having a taste of the best even in 2019.

On a side note, I’ll like to recommend visiting a yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) store named FukuFuku, located about 5 minutes on foot from Tottori station.

The owner is fully proficient in English (you can ask for recommendations for cuts!) and takes a lot of pride and joy in his work – from driving 50 minutes each day to get the best cuts of meat, to preparing and plating them carefully and beautifully for each customer.

Yes, you read that correctly. It takes less than an hour! Which means that the beef you'll be consuming would be fresh, and is not processed for prolonging shelf life.
Just look at that marbling ♥ ੧(❛▿❛✿)
Besides, you can really feel his effort shine through the plates of food. His cuts of Tottori beef came with Instagram-worthy marbling and tantalizing juiciness that envelopes your mouth from the very moment you bite into it! Not to mention, there was absolutely no lingering aftertaste and you just feel as if you can continue eating on and on forever. 

We ended up being blissfully bloated after ordering three plates of the premium beef and even still the bill barely totaled up to SGD$150 for 4 people. 

W h a t     s t e a l !

2. Fresh seafood right from the coast!

In Nov-Dec, from late fall to winter, they have a specialty crab (Matsuba crab) that’s said to be larger and a lot juicier than your average crab. 

Unfortunately, my trip was from late October to early November and coupled with the typhoon messing up the change of seasons and migration patterns slightly, I couldn’t try this delicacy at its peak. However, rest assured that I am already making plans to head back to Tottori once more within the next three years, but until then, I’ll just satisfy this disappointment and cravings with the images of Matsuba crab Milkcananime’s lovely readers send in!

Also, there's another noteworthy seafood dish  Asari clam miso soup    which revolves around Asari clams fresh from Lake Togo!
This lake is found in Yurihama in Tottori prefecture and there are many onsen inns that have sprung up around the lake, to allow guests to enjoy lavish meals clad with seafood dishes and relax in onsen baths that overlook the lake! 

The onsen inn that I chose in the region is Togo Onsen Kosenkaku Yojokanwhich provides an incredibly authentic experience – going from their impeccable service and cleanliness to their cozy Japanese style rooms and mouthwatering ten course kaiseki dinners.
Western style rooms are also available if you prefer them!


3. Tourists enjoy 50% off attractions!

Behold! The very last point is about money, and it involves what most of us tourists love to do: sightseeing! °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

Sightseeing is one of the more important aspects of travelling to me since it helps me learn more about the history and culture of the country. Some natural landscapes like flower fields and waterfalls, are also things that we can never find in urban Singapore.

So, imagine my excitement to find out that most of the tourist attractions in Tottori now still have their entrance fee for tourist attractions reduced by up to 50%! This is a deal includes all foreigners (bring along your passport), regardless of age, and that’s probably a deal that you’d never find in any major cities!

One perfect example of a wonderful place that I’ve been to that had the 50% off for tourists deal was the Hanakairo Flower Park in Tottori 

As I went near Halloween, there was still a ton of Halloween decorations all around Tottori!

The way we are able to view the mountain range together with the breathtaking flower field is spectacular~
Not only is the entire park filled with flowers of different species and colors, there was even a section of the park dedicated to showcasing flower arrangement pieces made by the locals! Be sure to check it out if you do go there as there are some really intricately arranged pieces!

Another tourist place that is commonly forgotten in brochures would be Enchoen Garden!

This garden is a Chinese-style garden and when you step into it, you'll feel like you are transported back in time and place to the Forbidden Palace 

Definitely a place where many Singaporeans can connect to, both culturally and through all the Chinese TV drama shows~

Moreover, if you are a Buddhist, Tottori also has its own fair share of temples, whereby quite a few feature Guan Yin. It'll probably be a good experience to visit these temples during your stay in Tottori and see how the temples and praying styles differ between your country and in Japan.
That's all for today. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts where I will highlight points from my itinerary and also review all the key sightseeing and food locations I've been to in Tottori (❁´▽`❁)*✲゚*

Meanwhile, enjoy this video about the 8 beautiful aspects of Tottori, presented by Tottori's Governor himself!
And last but not the least... Welcome to Tottori!
Don't forget to drop by the Sand Dunes too!

~ Reina-rin