Category Archives: Outdoor Recreation

Armenian Street Party 2017 by Peranakan Museum

A short stretch of the road and space in front of the Peranakan Museum closed to the traffic for two nights, transforming into a fun party venue for visitors to bring their family, children and friends down, visit the museums and soak in the party atmosphere. This was the Armenian Street Party 2017 organised by Peranakan Museum that took place on 10th and 11th March. The Armenian Street Party made her maiden debut in 2016, I was there too at the first Armenian Street Party!

For this year 2017 Armenian Street Party, I dropped by on Friday evening and managed to catch some of the performances at the street party. The theme for Armenian Street Party 2017 was back to school, going back to the good old school nostalgia days (when we were young), some of you might remember going to detention class, disliking certain subjects such as literature, tuckshop food during recess time, English and grammar class, PE class, music class etc etc.

The Armenian Street Party was also a perfect time to visit the Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum with their family, children and friends. This street party is perfect for the two museums to have more publicity and awareness from the public, they are two great museums with really great and wonderful artworks, contents and exhibitions, that the public may not know as much, compared to her bigger fellow sister museums such as the National Museum of Singapore.

At the Armenian Street Party 2017, on the Friday that I visited, I saw the mass P.E. class by Upside Motion, it’s not a bad idea to conduct P.E. class on the road without the vehicles! The iconic Peranakan Museum favourite band of singers, the Peranakan Sayang, were in action on Friday, with the theme “Balek Sekolah!”, translated to “Back to school!”. This group of singers are really good and they never fail to light up the crowds!

The Armenian Street Party is not just about the two museums, Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum, it’s a community event, the kampung spirit, with fellow neighbours along Armenian Street coming in, participating and be a part of this festive party. Timbre Group, Substation, Upside Motion, True Blue Cuisine and SMU were neighbours, part of the Armenian Street kampung. They all played a part in this year’s street party.

There were also delicious food by True Blue Cuisine, selling all time favourite tuckshop treats, I didn’t manage to go down and eat all the food on Friday. I only manage to eat the laksa during the media preview (I was rushing for time on that day) prior to the street party weekend.

I took the opportunity to visit Singapore Philatelic Museum, a very short walk down the road from Peranakan Museum. I forgot when was the last time I visited this museum, they looked small in physical size yet they packed some pretty wonderful collections inside there. Touring the Singapore Philatelic Museum brought me back many memories, I used to collect stamps when I was a young kid in school and I am beginning to wonder where have I kept my stamps? Probably somewhere in my home!

After touring the Singapore Philatelic Museum, I stayed on and watched two performances –

Literature Class: Music & Prose of the Past

By Cappella Martialis

Literature Class: Will The Night Away!

By Centre Stage.

Two great performances held inside this small and cosy Singapore Philatelic Museum.

The performance “Will The Night Away!” was about a Shakespeare classic “Romeo and Juliet”, that most students would probably have studied if they took Literature during their secondary school days (I didn’t take Literature in my upper secondary school). This is Singapore style, a Singapore spin “Romeo and Ah Lian”. Their play was hilarious, interactive and engaging, with the Shakespeare exhibition theme behind them, this was a perfect setting for Romeo and Ah Lian!

Since I was only there on Friday, I couldn’t catch the rest of the performances and activities that were held during the Armenian Street Party 2017, although I did manage to catch a glimpse of some of them during the media preview.

Personally, I feel that the Armenian Street Party is a great community event that doesn’t need to go massively big, it may not (and need not) be the biggest street party event or museums event, they just leverage and combine together as the Armenian Street “kampung”, the Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum, along with their neighbours along Armenian Street.

Looking forward to the next edition of the Armenian Street Party!


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 5

25th October 2016 – Day 5 Furano and Biei -> Lake Toya

On day 5, we decided to start a bit early and head towards Torinuma Park, hoping to catch the morning mist across the lake. The weather was really cold for the autumn season, we departed from the hotel at 6am and Kato san drove down towards Torinuma Park.

Nakafurano

Along the way at Nakafurano, we caught the sunrise shining through from the mountain range. Even though it was pretty cloudy, we can spot the gorgeous morning sun rays punching through the horizon and skyline. Kato san stopped his car at the side of the road, ensuring that his car was not obstructing any traffic. We quickly took our camera gears out and started shooting away!

We didn’t spend too much taking photographs of the sunrise on that particular morning, once the sunrise moved up further into the sky, it was immediately engulfed by the thick clouds over the horizon during that morning. Nevertheless, we did enjoy and managed to a few photographs of the sunrise, she was spectacular at certain time!

Furano

Torinuma Park

From the spot where we took the sunrise photographs at Nakafurano, it was about 10 – 15 mins drive to reach Torinuma Park. When we alighted from the car and walked towards the lake, there wasn’t any morning mist across the lake that we had hoped for. We were not disappointed because we knew that such scenes were never guaranteed, a bit of luck is needed too! Therefore we stayed back for a short time, taking photographs of Torinuma Park again.

We drove and returned back to our hotel at Nakafurano, went into the onsen to warm ourselves up from the cold early morning drive out, packed our bags and continued with Day 5 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.

Kamifurano

Miyama Toge (near to Woodylife)

After checking out from the hotel, Kato san drove up north towards Kamifurano and Biei. In just a short drive away, the autumn season turned into winter season. This is one of the amazing natural beauty of Hokkaido, getting autumn and winter seasons together in just a short distance away.

At this particular location in Kamifurano, it’s pretty well known as a lookout point since this is a toge, a mountain pass and overlooking the farms, the Furano railway tracks and the mountain range of Daisetsuzan National Park. The weather was covered with thick clouds close to the mountain range area, the farms were visible and not were not covered by the clouds or mist.

There was a golden moment when the sun light rays punched through the clouds onto the fields of Kamifurano and Biei. During my two trips to Hokkaido, I am always on the lookout for all these golden moment, when the sun light rays shined through the clouds. By describing the golden moment sun light rays shining scenes as awesome, breathe taking, unbelievable, I just simply ran out of adjectives to describe them. I would just snap as many photographs as possible before the sun light rays disappeared.

Biei

The next phase of my photography adventure is an early Christmas present from Hokkaido, experiencing winter season in the autumn season of Hokkaido! Biei was covered with beautiful white snow and the weather turned out perfect after a cloudy start in the morning.

The list of destinations that I would be sharing on my trip around the Biei region were some of the most popular landmarks and icons of Biei and also Hokkaido, they are very pooular with photographers and tourists visiting Biei. Having visited them, I was very excited and very happy, to photograph the various landmarks and icons in such a great weather.

A Gentle Reminder to ALL photographers, travelers and tourists

Before I start writing away on all those gorgeous landscapes, trees and landscape sceneries, I would like to give all photographers, travelers and tourists a very gentle reminder that we MUST/HAVE TO respect the local farmers in Biei, their farmland areas whereby their hard work are displayed on their farms, the different types of crops and vegetables. That farms surround all those locations that you see in my write up below, let’s protect the farmers hard work, we are also protecting all those beautiful landscapes that would allow other photographers, travelers and tourists to visit, enjoy and take many photographs for beautiful memories.

Please take your photographs from the viewing spot behind the rope/line! Do NOT cross the rope/line!

Christmas Tree

A lone tree, another of those one tree hill scenes added to my collection, this was also my Christmas gift from Hokkaido because this was the Christmas Tree of Biei, covered with snow!

Mild Seven Hill

Does the word Mild Seven strikes a bell in you? The name Mild Seven is tobacco brand and this beautiful hill that you see here was used in a famous advertisement for Mild Seven tobacco.

From my viewing point, I finally understand why this location was chosen for the advertisement. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and soaked in this pretty landscape scenery of snow powder on the farm land, the Japanese larch trees accompanied by the clear blue sky behind.

My Hokkaido 2016 autumn trip had been nothing short of phenomenal, spectacular and unique. Although the first few days were cold, wet and windy weather, there were a number of omens that made my trip very special and unique. While we were taking photographs of the Mild Seven Hill, Kato san and myself heard a distinct call from our backs, above in the sky. We quickly turned our backs and started observing, to our absolute delight, there was a flight of swans flying towards us and across the Mild Seven Hill! I finally managed to capture birds in flight while in Hokkaido!

This flight of swans was very unique, to put in a shameless plug for myself, the swans flew above Biei, welcoming me to Hokkaido! However, according to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, it’s rare for swans to fly above Biei at this time and this was the first time he had seen them flying above Biei! Those pretty white swans gave me another priceless moment to remember from my Hokkaido 2016 autumn adventure!

Hill top observation point

This location is very special, it gives you the top of the world feeling, a bird’s eye view that show how vast, wide and far the Hokkaido landscape can be. There is no landmark to indicate this hill top observation point and during the winter season, it is not accessible by car.

This is a very amazing location, it’s an ideal location to experience and view how special it would be during the four different seasons. Kato san also mentioned that this spot is great for taking sunset scenes and I would love to come back again to this spot because I love taking sunset sceneries!

I am able to visit and take photographs from this hill top observation point because of my very experienced Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san. He knows the area, the locations, that we photographers would like to go and take photographs.

Parent and Child Trees

The parents will always love and look after their own children, just like the small oak tree that is standing in between two larger oak trees. From where I stood, watching them across the vast farmland filled with snow, this was filled with warmth, love and sunshine in a cold Hokkaido autumn season.

Farm House with row of trees

Continuing our journey in the area, Kato san stopped along the side of the road and showed me another scenic spot that photographers like to visit and take photographs, a farm house with a row of trees. While there wasn’t an official tourism marker build for this beautiful sight, visitors and photographers can observe it from the side of the road without stepping into the farmers land.

Blue Pond

The Blue Pond is probably one of the icons of Biei and Hokkaido, it’s a destination packed with tourists, travelers and photographers. I heard about this destination previously and wanted to visit this place since I am in the area. Therefore, I requested Kato san to plan in this location during my photography schedule for Biei.

A beautiful destination, no doubt about that, it’s just packed with tourist buses and cars though. Kato san highlighted that it gets even more packed and busy during the summer season! It might be a bit difficult to capture the photographs that you wanted when you are visiting the Blue Pond in Biei.

I enjoyed my short visit to the Blue Pond, captured down on my photographs before we left for our next destination. 

Shirahige Waterfall

Kato san drove into this area occupied by a few stylish hotels, some commanding a pretty awesome view, fitted with stylish furnishings and designs, with their own private onsen in some of the hotels. The room rate is therefore pretty expensive too! If I have the budget, I would love to stay in one of those stylish Shirogane Onsen Resorts near the Shirahige Waterfall.

My initial thoughts were, another waterfall, ok, let’s see what it’s going to be like! When I crossed the bridge and looked up and down the ravine, the Blue River, Shirahige Waterfall and the range of mountain peaks covered with snow, I just stood there, blown away and mesmerised by the natural beauty and surroundings.

Photographers will love this destination, imagine all the different types of sceneries, colours and landscapes during the four different seasons of Hokkaido, I would love to return again to this spot in my future trips to Hokkaido. Bring your lover/partner along when you visit Shirogane Waterfall, it’s a romantic destination and walk for both of you to enjoy the time, moment and gorgeous sceneries.

Mt Tokachi Observation Deck

I had a few key highlights from my Hokkaido autumn trip in October 2016 that I remembered deeply inside my heart and soul. The next location after Shirogane Waterfall was one of them and this might be the best of my best travel highlights during my Hokkaido autumn trip.

A drive up to the mountains, luckily for me, the road had not been closed yet. Kato san mentioned that this road up to the mountain would not be open during the winter season. From the drive up, I can totally understand why, Hokkaido winter is going to fill up this mountain road, making it very difficult to clear the snow filled road, moreover, driving in icy winter road conditions can be very dangerous too.

Upon reaching Mt. Tokachi Observation Deck, I stood there, outside Kato san’s car, did a 360 degrees observation of this destination. This was why I wanted to return back to Hokkaido after my first trip in November 2014.

It was a trip to the top of the world feeling, surrounded by a clear blue sky without too much clouds covering the mountain range peaks, powder snow fields and I was welcomed by a natural phenomena known as 22 degrees halo and possibly a rare 46 degrees halo too! The halo was like a gateway to a whole new world out there, it’s a Stargate!

You will know the feelings and emotions when you just have no words to describe and to even say it out. I stood there, completely blown away after taking a number of photographs of Mt Tokachi Observation Deck.

Before we made our descend to the observation hut and back to the car, I sincerely thank my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san, for bringing me to this destination. When I was at the Mt Tokachi Observation Deck, this was the magical moment whereby all my troubles, stress and pressure seem so far far away from me.

KamiFurano

Hinode Park

On the way down towards our lunch location suggested by Kato san, I had the opportunity to witness 2 seasons (winter and autumn) together, a beauty of Hokkaido that I enjoyed a lot from my 2 trips to Hokkaido (2014 and 2016). At Hinode Park, we made a short pit stop, the evergreen on the fields in the foreground, with the white snow covered mountain range in the background. An amazing and unforgettable view of 2 distinctive seasons coming together in 1 scene, a view that I will never forget.

Lunch – Kamifurano

When you have a very experienced local photo / travel guide like Kato san, he knows where are the best and most delicious local Japanese food. Kato san brought me to this charcoal grilled food house, a small family run food business. This would be one of my best authentic local Japanese food experiences that I had! There wasn’t any english menu and I really had to thank Kato san for selecting and ordering all the delicious food on my behalf!

Charcoal grilled pork, dipped with their own family secret sauce, it’s really unforgettable, very delicious. The charcoal fumes and cooked pork meat aroma would stay on your clothes, a smell that I would gladly accept!

Lookout point

After our delicious charcoal grilled lunch, we started a long road trip from Kamifurano towards Lake Toya. Kato san made a quick pit stop at one of the lookout points on the route down and I snapped a few photographs before the long road trip down.

Long car ride to Lake Toya

The distance between Kamifurano and Lake Toya was approximately 300km (based on the route that Kato san drove). It was quite a long drive and we reached Lake Toya at night, had a quick rest and onsen to relax from a whole exciting day of exploring, walking and driving.

End of my Day 5 travel photography adventure in Hokkaido, now to get ready for Day 6!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 5


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 4

24th October 2016 – Day 4 Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei

Day 4 marks the start of another new photography adventure in Hokkaido! I am on a photography tour planned for the next 4 days by my friend, Tsuyoshi Kato, who is also a Hokkaido Photo Guide. I first knew Kato san in November 2014 during my first visit to Hokkaido as part of the Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip. Kato san is very knowledgable and experienced in planning for photographers who want to visit locations around Hokkaido for an unforgettable photography experience. I decided to engage Kato-san’s professional photography tour services for the next four days as I would love to explore different locations around Hokkaido whereby photographers love to visit.

Departing from my hotel Dormy Premium Inn Otaru, Kato-san’s plan for today was to visit the Furano and Biei region and we started the drive from Otaru towards Furano and Biei, making stops along Mikasa and Ashibetsu for some pretty interesting sceneries and landscapes!

Mikasa

On the car journey from Otaru to Biei, we passed by Mikasa City, this used to be a thriving and prosperous area with the coal mining industry pushing the local economy. Today, the coal mining industry is no longer in operation and this area had been quiet since then.

The Old Pombetsu Coal Mine

Kato-san made a quick stop to show me the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine. The former coal mining buildings and structures are still standing there and it is now closed to the public. There is a informative signboard that had maps, old photos and a short write up of the history on the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine.

Lake Katsurazawa

We continued our journey towards Furano, driving through roads that showcased distinct weather and climate of Hokkaido. In some areas, that would be snow falling on the forest/trees and they really made a very beautiful scenery with the autumn leaves on the branches that had not fallen yet. Another 20-30 minutes drive down the road, the sceneries and landscape might change into autumn only, no snow at all. This is a beauty of Hokkaido that I will always remember, the season can change in just some distance away.

Kato-san stopped at Lake Katsurazawa, it’s a beautiful location surrounded by forests, quiet and tranquil. The colourful autumn leaves can be seen in full foliage around the lake, making it a good spot for photographing the autumn season in Hokkaido. However, the water is brownish and unlike some of the other beautiful clear blue lakes in Hokkaido. The water is not free flowing because it is a large artificial lake created by the Katsurazawa Dam. Even though the water may not look as beautiful like some of her other counterparts in other areas of Hokkaido, the beautiful forests surrounding it would make it a place to visit during the other seasons.

Ashibetsu

Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝(Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/CByHFsf3Jnz)

Leaving Mikasa, entered into Ashibetsu first before reaching Furano. That was a location in Ashibetsu that Kato-san brought me to. It’s a waterfall with 3 sections thus the name Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝.

A gorgeous location, while the weather was a bit overcast, we were able to spot the colourful trees surrounding both sides of the river, the 3 sections of the waterfall and the downstream after that. The path to the lookout point/hut that can get you close to the waterfall and the downward stream was a bit wet and slippery due to the wet weather.

When we finished photographing and about to leave, snow fell from the sky with a bit of gusty cold wind blowing. The weather in Hokkaido can change pretty quickly in the blink of an eye sometimes.

Furano

Continuing our journey, we drove into Furano. My first impression was a flat and wide valley ground, surrounded by 2 mountain ranges on the sides, Mt Yubari, Mt Ashibetsu and Mt Furano-Nishi on one side and Mt Furano, Mt Tokachi, Mt Tomuraushi, Mt Chubetsu, Mt Hiragatake (Daisetuzan National Park side).

Living at the bottom of a valley can get really really cold during winter, from my experiences when I went skiiing in New South Wales, Australia, many years ago. Mt Kosciuszko (Perisher Blue) wasn’t too cold at the top when I was skiing yet when I reached Canberra, I was kind of freezing (in the night).

Furano had many farms growing different kind of crops. This area is a very popular destination during spring and summer, I can understand why. The entire area in summer season would be packed with crops ready for harvesting. For those growing flowers, the colourful and beautiful flowers would brighten up the whole place. I would love to visit Furano during the summer season and hope to do it some day in the future!

Torinuma Park  

Our first destination in Furano is Torinuma Park. Upon arrival, I was greeted by good weather, I saw clear blue sky, sunshine with cloud cover! This good weather made me very excited, I had overcast sky, snow, rain and chilly winds for my first four days in Hokkaido. The beautiful sunlight cast the colourful autumn leaves on the leaves into something magical, green, yellow, red and orange colour leaves against the beautiful clear blue sky. I was ecstatic and blown away, this was the autumn that I had been seeking when I arrived in Hokkaido.

We explored the forest surrounding the lake at Torinuma Park. There were some great places to take photographs from different spots with different perspectives, when the strong winds blew across, the leaves dropped and fell onto the lake, providing the lake with a pretty layer of colourful leaves on its water.

Lunch – Shinasoba ramen by Shinatora

One of my favourite Japanese food is Ramen and during that afternoon, I was brought to this local ramen shop in Furano, the name of the ramen shop is Shinatora, their shop speciality is a soup base mix of pork and fish! When I had my first taste of the Shinasoba ramen, I was in heaven!! This special and unique ramen is really oishii!! Ramen is an absolute delight during the cold autumn/winter seasons, hot and heartwarming.

Rokugo Viewing Platform / Kyohsai Farm (Furano Jam Garden)

With such a delicious and hot ramen lunch inside us, Kato-san brought me to the area near the foot of the Mt Tokachi / Mt Furano mountain range where the famous Kyohsai Farm / Furano Jam Garden was located, they had some many different types of jam for sale, along with a nice café to have coffee while resting at the same time. Although I didn’t buy any jam, I would love to come back during summer and visit this place again! Kato-san said this place is very popular during summer season!

Behind Furano Jam Garden, there was a small dirt road leading up towards a small hill, suitable for cars to drive up the small dirt road. On the road upwards, there was a famous lone tree that stood out from the row of forests beside the road. From the ground up perspective, the lone tree looked like it’s “floating”!

On top of the hill, there were farm lands, we visitors must be careful and considerate, not to trespass and trample onto the farm lands because we might destroy the crops and hurt the farmers livelihood and hard work.

There was an open area with a nice hut on the top of the hill, known as Rokugo Viewing Platform. The view up there was breathtaking, a great panoramic view of Furano. The cold autumn winds were blowing hard at us and I was freezing again when the cold winds hitted me! However, I was greeted by another iconic scene of Hokkaido, the light rays shining through the clouds onto the land.

There was another monologue tree nearby the Rokugo Viewing Platform, used by television company for some of their drama productions! It’s a very famous and iconic tree!

Mizusawa, Biei

The sky was turning dark as Kato-san drove up towards in the direction of Biei. A tale of two seasons in Hokkaido, separated by maybe 30km, from autumn into winter season. It was close to sunset timing when we arrived at this spot in Biei, snow was falling and it was cold around -1° (it’s not the coldest yet for Biei, Hokkaido).

There was a small farm house up on the hill, standing alone in the midst of the snow covered fields. While the small house stands alone in the open, it’s not alone at all, the role and significance cannot be underestimated. Somehow, I am always able to relate to lone/single objects e.g. lone tree, lone house etc etc … We might be monologue / single at times, however we are not alone because we attract the things around us to come to us.

Driving down a short distance from the small farm house, Kato san made a stop beside an open field between two forests. There were two trees that stood out in between the two forests. I stood there, enjoying the sceneries, peace, quiet and tranquility. It was really cold for me because I wasn’t really suited for winter season. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and enjoyed the moment while I am freezing myself out there (due to the chilly wind and rain).

The sun had set for the day, we also made our way to our hotel in Nakafurano, had our dinner, enjoyed the onsen and had a good night sleep.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 4 


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 3

23rd October 2016 – Day 3

It’s Sunday in Hokkaido, another cold and chilly autumn morning with the cold wind blowing. My plan for the morning was to make a pilgrimage to a whiskey that I really like a lot, Nikka whiskey. The birth place of Nikka whiskey is in this place called Yoichi, just three JR stations away from Otaru. I checked the local JR train timetable heading towards Yoichi the night before, planned the time to wake up, head towards onsen, buy my breakfast from the JR Otaru station convenience store before boarding the local JR train to Yoichi.

The local JR train ride was fun and I always love my traveling experiences there. Although it was only three stations away, the distance between them were quite far apart. I loved the views from my short JR train ride, I saw the colourful trees, the sea, coast line, hills and houses. My train ride was quite busy, not too packed, there were a number of people on the same train ride too. I spotted some elderly Japanese folks drinking beer in the morning while traveling on the train!

Nikka Distillery

Upon arriving at JR Yoichi station, there were a lot of people that were riding together on the train also alighted along with me. It dawned upon me pretty quickly that we were all heading towards a common destination, the Nikka distillery! A short walk away from JR Yoichi station, I arrived at the entrance to Nikka distillery, I am awed and excited because I made a pilgrimage to my favourite whiskey!

Visiting and walking inside Nikka distillery wasn’t too difficult, you can choose to join a guided tour (in Japanese though) or you can choose to walk around and explore on your own. I chose to walk around and explore myself. There were many information at various locations on the history, significance and things related to Nikka whiskey. The most interesting segments for me were the whiskey museum and Nikka Kaikan (guest hall, tasting room). My most eagerly anticipated segment of visiting Nikka distillery was the free whiskey tastings! There were 3 types of whiskey available for tasting inside the Nikka Kaikan, there were some rules to follow for visitors, no drinking for those visitors driving and each visitor is only allowed to taste 1 glass of whiskey from each type of whiskey available for tasting.

Whiskey is supposed to be enjoyed slowly, shaking and stirring the aroma up from the whiskey, slowly sipping, enjoying the after taste before continuing to slowly sip up the rest of the whiskey. In the midst of my excitement and over enthusiasm, I drank two of the three whiskey in kind of double quick time. Although I really loved the taste and feeling, my head started to spin because I drank too fast and furious! I had to quickly grab some ice water to drink and settle myself down!

There was a place known as Distillery Shop “Northland”, a gift shop to buy gifts and Nikka whiskey. Initially, I thought of buying Nikka whiskey back home to Singapore, however, they were not able to do the duty free procedure therefore I decided not to buy it back. Instead, I bought an ice ball maker and a box of Nikka Distillery chocolates.

I checked the return trip JR train time table when I first entered into the JR Yoichi station, therefore, I had a bit of time to walk around Yoichi and have a quick look before making my way to JR Yoichi station. Japanese trains were very efficient, reliable and punctual. The station masters opened up the doors for the passengers to walk out to the platform about 10 mins before the scheduled arrival time of the JR train. The visitors queued up in rows, waiting in line for the train to arrive. The JR train arrived exactly at the scheduled time as printed on the boards inside the train station.

Reaching JR Otaru station, there was a short time transition for passengers to switch and hop on to the another JR train heading towards Sapporo. This was how great, detailed and thoughtful the Japanese placed in service delivery standards.

When I reached Sapporo, I wanted to look for the Travelers notebook by the Traveler’s Company. However, I wasn’t able to find my way around the shopping centre and I didn’t manage to buy it during my trip to Hokkaido. I went back to the same lunch place yesterday, ordered a curry beef rice, enjoyed my lunch and took the next available train back to Otaru, for my late afternoon to night view of Otaru from Mt Tenguyama.

Mt Tenguyama, Otaru

Mt. Tenguyama, is a famous and well known tourism destination in Otaru, as well as in Hokkaido. On top of Mt Tenguyama, it has one of the best views of Hokkaido, highly rated and recommended by both locals and international visitors. I took a bus from Otaru bus terminal in front of JR Otaru station towards the foot of Mt Tenguyama where the ropeway station was located. I took the ropeway up and it was a great view of Otaru, the port and the sea!

Mt Tenguyama indeed had some gorgeous views up at the top, there were a few observation points that allowed visitors to take photographs of Otaru and her surroundings from different observation points. The weather was a bit overcast and pretty cloudy when I was up on top of Mt Tenguyama. I explored around the top of Mt Tenguyama, it’s really peaceful and beautiful. There were gusty chilly winds blowing on that evening, making it very challenging for me to stay long outside in the open to take photographs (I was kind of freezing up there on Mt Tenguyama).

Waiting for the sun to set and night to arrive, I finally caught a good glimpse of the night landscape scenery of Otaru. I didn’t bring my tripod up to Mt Tenguyama therefore I made the best out of everything in a very cold autumn night with gusty winds blowing at the top of Mt Tenguyama.

Taking the ropeway ride down, enjoying the nights sceneries of Otaru. I took the bus back to Otaru city centre, went to JR Otaru station and bought a half deep fried chicken for dinner back to my hotel room whereby I was able to keep myself warm from another cold chilly autumn night.

On my last night in Otaru at Dormy Inn Premium, I went down for my night singing noodles, the hot and heartwarming Yonaki Soba, my last time to enjoy this wonderful noodles, I am not too sure when I would have the chance again. Upon finishing the delicious Yonaki Soba, I went back to my room, packed my luggage while resting before coming down to relax and enjoy at the onsen before my sleep time.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 3


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Reflection – Photography 2016

First and foremost, before I started writing down my thoughts on Reflection – Photography 2016, I searched through my archives, found my reflection articles for the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I wonder what happened to my years 2014 and 2015? That is a mystery for me to solve.

The year 2016 had a significant impact on my photography due to unforeseen circumstances outside of photography, in my professional and personal life. If you would like to know more about what really happened, I wrote and posted on what happened to me over the past three quarters of 2016 on my personal site, it’s inside the archives or you can also read Reflecting 2016 – Part 1 and 2.

Fellow photographer friends mentioned to me that they haven’t seen me post and share as many photographs, compared to previous years. They were spot on, great with details and observations. A quick look at my Flickr collection on the 2016 memories, I got 34 albums inside this collection, partly due to the fact that my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs (7 sets) and 3 sets of portfolio works have not been uploaded yet. Therefore, I might have 44 albums of photographs for year 2016 memories collection in my final count for this album.

That’s my Hokkaido Photo GuideTsuyoshi Kato san, during my Hokkaido October 2016 trip.

With the exception of my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs, the year 2016 would probably be a year of not too much excitement nor mind blowing for my photography. It’s probably due to the other circumstances that had severely affected my photography, most crucially, my personal projects were all put aside.

This cute penguin from Jurong Bird Park basically sums up my Photography 2016 Reflection –

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017.

Time to resurrect my personal photography projects and rejuvenate my photography in year 2017!

A dream, an inspiration to produce/print my own travel story book

I am a travel wanderlust deep inside, even though I didn’t travel as much and to as many countries that I would love to. One of the countries that I love, that most of my family, relatives, friends and readers would be able to see it from my sharing, is Japan.

A few weeks back, while reading and searching for photography books in the library, I would also look at travel section books. Most recently I found this book titled “日本鐵道美景”, published in Taiwan, showcasing gorgeous Japan Railways (JR) landscape sceneries and JR trains in action. I was in awe and totally mesmerised by those photographs showcased inside the book, the locations on where you can go and photograph them. Deep inside my heart, I am thinking of photographing JR railway sceneries in my next Japan trip.

Most recently, I found this book in the library, on Hokkaido personal travel stories by Milly, titled “一個人的幸福旅程-北海道“, that is also published in Taiwan. Similarly, I am also very inspired by this book and thinking of combining my 2014 and 2016 Hokkaido travel stories together into a mini e-book / PDF book as well as printing them out as a physical book. I am wondering how it would turn out?

To be honest with everybody, I don’t know how to produce and print a proper book with ISBN standard and registration. This is my dream, my inspiration to produce and print my own travel story book, on Hokkaido, using my travel stories of 2014 and 2016. I only have my stories and photographs, I don’t know how to do a proper and professional book layout, I don’t know the process of editing and getting the final stories edited.

This new journey that I just discovered, it’s daunting yet I can feel the excitement and adrenaline, an experience something similar to my Hokkaido photo book that I printed in 2015. I am going to discover this new journey of producing and printing my own travel story book.

It’s going to be another difficult journey with an unbelievable goal and outcome at the end. This is not so much about earning money, these are my own photography artworks and travel stories, my pride and joy. I am definitely going to face a lot of obstacles in many aspects. I am going to think, plan and work it out step by step, no rush, no pressure.

A dream, an inspiration, a new personal project discovered for year 2017 and unearthed deep inside my heart and soul, it’s like my calling.

Smarty (prescription) Sunglasses for my photography and outdoors

Sunglasses, how does come into the picture for my photography website? This accessory is not directly linked to photography and mainstream photography accessories. The sunglasses is more of an apparel, essential and important especially for those who spent time outdoors in their work and leisure. A pair of sunglasses in my personal humble opinion is very useful and important for photographers like me who are taking photographs in the outdoors (events, wildlife, travel) and also for those who love the great outdoors!

Nowadays, there are many more sunglasses brands, models and designs available in the market. I owned other sunglasses previously and still have them today but they were not prescribed to my short sighted eyes. I have been searching for prescription sunglasses and couldn’t really find suitable ones over the years. When I read about Smarty Sunglasses by The Lens Men, I decided to read up and research more about Smarty Sunglasses and they were able to do a prescription sunglasses!

There are other alternatives too e.g. wearing contact lenses or going for lasik surgery. After weighing the options available and based on my personal preferences, I chose the prescription sunglasses method. Therefore, I decided to visit my friendly and trusted optometrist The Lens Men (my last two pair of spectacles were with them). Prior to going down, I had a chat with The Lens Men via Facebook and they were responsive to my queries.

I was lucky that The Lens Men happened to run a promotion program – Sporty September on their Facebook page in the month of September 2016 with custom Rx packages featuring Essilor’s Crizal Xperio are 30% off, I managed to make an appointment the final week of September and get my Smarty prescription sunglasses, at The Eye Site, sister company of The Lens Men! Some might feel that it’s a bit pricey for a prescription sunglasses, I view it as an investment for my photography and outdoors. I managed to raise some funds for my Smarty prescription sunglasses from selling off old smartphones during my de-cluttering process.

Smarty Sunglasses S14516
Smarty Sunglasses S14516

When I was at The Eye Site getting my Smarty sunglasses done up, I initially wanted the model S14509 because I really liked this design. However, the friendly folks at The Eye Site advised me that based on my the degrees for both my eyes, it is highly not recommended because the prescription lens will look really thick and not suitable for that particular frame. After listening to their professional and detailed explanation, I looked at other alternative models and I chose S14516 instead. I waited for about 1 week+, I was finally able to collect my Smarty Sunglasses and I realised why the folks at The Eye Site / The Lens Men advised me not to go for the initial model S14509 because my lens would be quite thick!

With photography master Yip (centre) and photography master Jensen Chua (right) at Singapore Zoo

Finally, after searching for some time, I finally have a prescription sunglasses for my photography and great outdoors. I brought it to Hokkaido recently in October and it came in very handy when I was on Mount Tokachi, with snow on their slopes (while it is still autumn season), facing the sun and snow, my Smarty sunglasses really helped me a lot, protecting my eyes too! Although I have to lift up my Smarty sunglasses to view the photos on my LCD screen on my camera, it’s just a minor action to do and I can live with this action, as long as my eyes are protected from the glaring sun.

As a person who love the great outdoors, a photographer who shoots quite a lot outdoors too (wildlife, events, sports), a pair of sunglasses to me is a must have. Add in a prescription based sunglasses, it’s really ideal for me! I found this prescription sunglasses with the Smarty Sunglasses via The Lens Men and The Eye Site, friendly, professional and knowledgable folks, this is my third pair of glasses with them!

Time to explore more outdoors and taking photos with my prescription Smarty Sunglasses!

Hokkaido 2016 photography adventure introduction and overview

I visited Hokkaido in November 2014 for a Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip and I fell in love with Hokkaido. This gorgeous destination is a photographers haven with the great outdoors and the natural environment. As a fan of the great outdoors, landscapes and love of photography, Hokkaido has a very special place in my heart.

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I made a promise that I wanted to return and visit Hokkaido again, I fulfilled my own promise when I visited Hokkaido from 20th to 27th October 2016 on my own personal photography trip. A personal photography trip that rejuvenated me from the difficult period in 2016. My airfares were booked in April for October, flying Scoot airlines, on their new 787 Dreamliner to New Chitose via Taipei.

For the first 3 days of my photography adventure, I was on my own, based in Otaru and traveling out using the JR Hokkaido train service. From the 4th to the 7th day, my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Tsuyoshi Kato, a friend that I got to know during our November 2014 trip to Hokkaido when he was our photo guide.

I engaged the professional services of my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato-san. He planned my photography adventures exploring different parts of Hokkaido, not only is he very experienced, he’s also very knowledgable, also a fellow photographer that understands what photographers want and where to take photographs. Kato-san is highly recommended if you are thinking of a photography theme trip to Hokkaido.

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This Hokkaido trip was very special, I was very lucky to enjoy both autumn and winter seasons together in Hokkaido during the period that I am there. Such is the beauty and charm of Hokkaido, simply amazing! Not just did I enjoyed two seasons in one week, there were a few simply mind blowing memories that I managed to capture down not just with my camera, also with my eyes, heart and soul.

What was my schedule like? Here’s a quick introduction

Day 0/20th October – Singapore -> Taipei -> Hokkaido (New Chitose) -> Otaru

Day 1 /21st October – Otaru and Sapporo

Day 2 /22nd October – Otaru and Sapporo

Day 3/23rd October – Otaru, Yoichi and Sapporo

Day 4/24th October – Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei

Day 5/25th October – Furano –> Biei -> Lake Toya

Day 6/26th October – Lake Toya -> Sobetsu -> Date -> Muroran -> Lake Toya

Day 7/27th October – Lake Toya -> Date -> Noboribetsu -> Shiraoi -> New Chitose Airport

I am currently preparing my photographs and stories for each day from Day 1 to Day 7. Do stay tuned for my travel photography stories coming soon!

Epson Singapore Cup 2016

The inaugural Epson Singapore Cup, a grassroots football competition for the Under-15 age group, took place over two weekends on the 3rd and 10th September 2016 at SAFRA Tampines. The U-15 preliminary matches took place on the 3rd September 2016 and the quarter finals, semi finals and final took place on the 10th September 2016. Due to insufficient qualified entries, the proposed U-17 preliminary matches that were supposed to be played on 4th September 2016 were cancelled.

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Football is not just a sport that I played when I was growing up as a young kid, playing under the common corridor ground floor of the HDB block, basketball courts, schools and fields, football meant a lot to me, as a fan and supporter of this sport. When I knew about Epson organising the inaugural Singapore Cup, bringing grassroots football back to the community as part of their corporate service responsibility (CSR) initiatives, I was happy to hear about what they were planning to do for the youth and the football community in Singapore.

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I went down on 3rd September, covering and photographing the preliminary matches by the U-15 teams. The Epson Singapore Cup in 2016 was their maiden debut , there were 10 U-15 teams playing it out for the knock out rounds next week on the 10th September. Although there were not too many football teams participating, it was still a good competition whereby the boys had fun and enjoyed themselves on the football fields.

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When I was watching the boys playing football on the football pitches, it brought me back to my school days, when I just loved playing football after school and even during recess time (primary school days). This was also the time when I really enjoyed playing football, fun and carefree.

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Due to a clash of events and a photography assignment on 10th September, I wasn’t able to come down to watch, document and photograph the knock out matches. I would share some photographs and updates provided by Epson Singapore and Asia PR Werkz for the coverage on 10th September.

How did the knock out matches leading to the final turned out on 10th September? Let me share with you some of the key points –

The morning started with a briefing from Head Coach of Geylang International FC (GIFC) Hasrin Jailani, who advised them to watch the shape and formation of their teams as they play, balance between playing as a team and showcasing their individual skills, and display good sportsmanship. GIFC players Isa Halim and Mark Hartmann spoke to the teams, encouraging them to go the extra mile to push themselves to win, respect the officials and other teams, and enjoy the game. Teams who made it to the quarter finals were subsequently briefed by local football legends Lionel Lewis and S Subramani, to better prepare them for the matches. Team “Valentia C.F” emerged the winner after a nail-biting battle with hot favourites “Team Alpha” tied at 0:0, and a penalty shootout of 3:2 ensued.

epson-sg-cup-match-shots-2 Photo courtesy of Epson Singapore

Title Sponsor Epson Singapore was encouraged by the results of the tournament. “As our first Epson Singapore Cup, we are encouraged and impressed by the mettle, skills and sportsmanship the teams have shown on the field. For our young champion, I wish them all the best and may the training stint bring them a step closer towards excellence in football. For the rest of the participants, I believe their dedication will not go unnoticed, and continue to pursue their passion and dreams in football,” said Ms. Tan May Lin, Epson Singapore’s General Manager (Sales, Marketing & Customer Service Division).

Source: Epson Singapore press release

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Photo courtesy of Epson Singapore

The organisers will be reviewing the tournament and will announce subsequently if they will continue with this competition for next year. On a personal note, I really hope they will continue with the Epson Singapore Cup for year 2017. I support this grassroots level football competition, it’s an excellent initiative to grow our local football scene, and we need the changes to our local Singapore football scene. Starting from the grassroots, the foundation and base of the Singapore society, this is where we should and we must start from.

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Photo courtesy of Epson Singapore

Oh yes, I would to congratulate Team Valentia C.F for winning the inaugural Epson Singapore Cup! Have a fun learning and training stint experience at the prestigious Valencia C.F Soccer School in Singapore.

Old Playgrounds Lanterns at Wan Qing Yuan Mid Autumn Festival 2016

My favourite old playgrounds of Singapore, of my childhood days, came back to life in the form of brightly lighted handmade lanterns. It’s more than just nostalgic, it meant a lot to me personally. For those who had been following my photography works, documentation and story telling, old playgrounds had been my personal project for a few years.

When my friends at National Heritage Board informed us of these old playgrounds lanterns were to be part of Wan Qing Yuan Mid Autumn Festival 2016 at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, my eyes popped up! I was looking forward to visiting them!

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I managed to plan my time and schedule, making a pilgrimage to view my Old Playgrounds lanterns on Tuesday 13th September night. Upon reaching the entrance, I saw the big bright lights from the Old Playgrounds lanterns. They were pretty big and I was able to get up close with them. Immediately, I am able to identify all the Old Playgrounds there, it felt like going back in time to my childhood days again. I saw young children playing with their lanterns around the Old Playgrounds lanterns, they were having so much fun. Sometimes, we adults all have a secret wish to be a young kid again and just have fun like them.

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I walked around, soaking in the Mid Autumn Festival with the Old Playgrounds lanterns. It was a bag of mixed emotions, of nostalgia, fun and longing for the free fun childhood running around days at the Old Playgrounds. The Old Playgrounds may not be of greater significance compared to some other aspects of heritage and history. However, the cultural and emotional communal bondings, intangible and tucked inside our hearts and souls, we all might be carrying a fondness for them and a wish to return to the fun days.

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The Wan Qing Yuan Mid Autumn Festival 2016 is until 18th September 2016, time to bring your family and children down there for a Mid Autumn Festival outing and a time for family bonding and story telling of your good old childhood days playing at the old playgrounds.

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Come on down, take a walk into the world of bright and colourful Old Playgrounds!

Details

Location: Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

Address: 12 Tai Gin Road Singapore 327874

Dates: 9th September to 18th September 2016

Time: 7pm to 10pm


Created with flickr slideshow.