Monday, January 25, 2016

Day Tour Outside Tokyo: Winter Sports

"Do you want to build a snow man?"

One of my biggest frustration during our recent Tokyo vacation is that we weren’t able to try any winter sport, as if we're a sporty bunch! Time and budget constraints are 2 of the main reasons why we weren’t able to push through with this activity. I've researched a lot of day tour trips outside Tokyo where you can try winter sports, that it's worthy of a blog post.
Photo from website
Fujiten Snow Resort is 3 hours commute away from Tokyo city and going there is like hitting 2 birds with 1 stone. Beginners can enjoy the sled while the more adventurous ones can try skiing while enjoying the majestic view of Mt Fuji. The resort is open from 8:30am to 5pm while night skiing is from 4-10PM.

How to get there:
From Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko Station
1) By Train│ Shinjuku Station → Kawaguchiko Station (2hr,¥2500-¥3400 1way)
By Bus | (2hr, ¥1,750 1way)
2) Taxi(20min ¥4500 1way)
3) Fujiten Snow Resort (¥9500/pax for a half-day entry, gear + equipment rental)

From Narita Airport
1) By Train│ Narita Airport Station→Train(3hr)→Kawaguchiko Station→Taxi(20min)→Fujiten Snow Resort

You can book a group tour from Forest Bus , ¥8800 per person, exclusive of rental fee. Their Fujiten package is cheaper than the DIY option but you need to follow their packed  12hour itinerary. It starts from hotel pick up at 7:30 am, a tour at Lake Kawaguchiko then 4 hours stay at Fujiten Resort. I think that's enough time for lunch and enjoying the winter sports. Booking a package have pros and cons, it can be less risky because they will provide the transportation and tour guide but you can't enjoy the place on your own pace and time. The good thing though is that they are very responsive in email and I would love to book their service, too bad Fujiten’s opening season started in December 5, our departure date:(

Nagano is known as the Snow City and it's where Tokyo residents go for winter sports and onsen/hot bath. Although a day tour from Tokyo is possible, it can be very expensive and very time constricted so stay overnight instead.

1) By Train│Shinkansen to Nagano station (1.5hr)
2) Take a express bus to Shigakogen  (1.5hr)
Ski rental/day: ¥4000

Narita Airport to Nozawa Onsen
1) By Bus from Narita Airport (Roundtrip) 4hr ¥23,000
Lift pass/day: ¥3400
Rentals for skis boots and poles: ¥3000

If you're a winter sports beginner and on a tight budget, like me, I would recommend a day tour in Fujiten Resort. But if you're an advanced skier, you will certainly enjoy the entire Nagano area which offers onsen and wide variety of slopes. I hope I can experience this, next winter season!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One OK Rock 2016 35xxxv Asia Tour Live In Manila Experience

I'm currently suffering from body ache that I got from being rowdy last night but I really have to write about the awesome concert experience before I sleep! I have a different hangover today and the only cure is watching One OK Rock live, again! 

I first heard about this Japanese rock band because of the movie, Rurouni Kenshin. They sang "The Begining", one of the OST for Takeru Satoh's film and from then on, my sister shoved their music to my throat! Don't get me wrong, I like their music but I want to be a casual fan because I can't afford to like another band!! On our recent trip to Tokyo, my sister forced me to buy her One OK Rock CDs as Christmas gifts for her.
Tower Records hoarding
We used to talk and dream about going to Europe to watch their concert because according to her, they only perform in Japan and Europe. Either way, sounds nice! I remember vividly, it was one Saturday morning in September, while I was browsing Facebook, I chanced upon Pulp Magazine's announcement that there will be a Manila stop for their 35xxxv Asia tour. I was literally jumping for joy but I had to wait for my sister to wake up and share the happy news! The VIP tickets costs PHP4,700 at it's very affordable compared to the K-Pop VIP and CNBLUE Budokan, Tokyo prices. After 4 months of waiting, finally, it's the D-Day!! My sister and I did some carbo loading and went to MOA Arena at around 6:30PM. There's no clear line for each ticket section and the guard said that it's pointless to join the magulong line because we have seat numbers. He has a point so we strolled around MOA grounds and went back at around 7PM. By that time, they already opened the gates and there's a clear line for VIP, lower box, etc.
The venue
The concert started at around 8:30 PM. They played MOA's safety video but sorry, I was too anxious to remember any of that. Maybe, a better idea is to play it on loop while we were waiting not the minute before the actual concert. We're on the seated VIP, middle aisle and I can't believe people really want to stay seated while the rest of the people in the arena are standing. Good thing, we're in the middle aisle so we stood on the stairs area to avoid complaints from people at the back. The other people on our front stood too so my sister and I doesn't feel guilty about blocking anyone.
So this is One OK Rock experience..1 of my 2 photos
Set list
35xxxv intro
Take me to the top
Deeper and deeper
Stuck in the middle
Clock Strikes
The last dance
Cry out
The Beginning
Mighty Long Fall
Wherever You Are
No Scared

At first, when I glanced at the simple stage, I was underwhelmed with the stage design. They just used a black curtain as a background with their logo in the center and their instruments spread out. There's no LED displays. Then when they started performing I realized that One OK Rock can immerse you into their music and they don't need anything else, maybe a good sound system and lighting, to amplify the effect of their performance. They sang most of the songs from their new album 35xxxv (Take Me to the Top, Cry Out, Suddenly, Mighty Long Fall, Heartache, Memories, Decision, Stuck in the Middle, The Last Dance) but they also mixed their classics (Deeper and deeper, Clock Strikes,The Beginning, Wherever You Are, No Scared, Dreamer).

A photo posted by ONE OK ROCK (@oneokrockofficial) on

I really like the acoustic "Heartache" and the "light stick" effect when we raised our phones. We just followed them =)) When they threw white balloons in the standing VIP area, that was the time that I really regretted not waking up earlier to buy those limited tickets! 

A photo posted by TORU ONE OK ROCK (@toru_10969) on
It was the longest and shortest 1 1/2 hour ever!! I was so tired because I was jumping up and down while shouting/singing the entire concert. I don't know why I was competing with Taka (the vocalist) =))) He said that it's their 1st time to perform in the Philippines but we're a fuckin' awesome crowd! No Taka, you have a fuckin' awesome band and you fed us the energy to jump and sing during the entire concert!! I felt like 23 all over again hahaha and I only have 2 photos & 1 short video so I'm reposting their official photos - I think that's a great sign that I was really into it and it takes a lot to keep my attention! Arigatou, One OK Rock, please fulfill your promise!! Make another amazing album and come back for another concert in Manila!! 

Ganbatte ne!!!

A photo posted by Taka (@10969taka) on

Saturday, January 16, 2016

정용화 (Jung Yong Hwa) X 선우정아 (SunWoo Jung A) - Empathy

I (and maybe,  the rest of Boice fandom) received a pleasant surprise on Sunday night, midnight on Korea.
FNC (CNBLUE's company) suddenly released a teaser for YongHwa's collaboration with Sunwoo Jung-A. So, every night, as a diligent follower, I waited every 11PM(12AM KST) for the new update- from teasers to album cover to finally the music video. Thank goodness for time difference!

It turned out that YH and SJA wrote 2 songs together. It's the typical "What YongHwa Wants, YongHwa Works Hard and Gets It" moment. It's funny how he had a lot of subtle hints on his Instagram posts. Last year, while he was promoting his solo album, he mentioned that he wants to collaborate with SJA because of her unique voice. SJA is actually a producer for YG Entertainment and worked with GD/TOP (BigBang) & 2NE1, She also released her critically acclaimed album and won "Artist of the Year" award. I honestly just read about those during their current promotions but hearing "Spring Girls" made me go all in in this collaboration project!

For "Hello" track, the music was by YongHwa and they collaborated on the lyrics. It's a ballad and their blending is heavenly! "The winter sings the love of you" blending is so awesome (for the lack of  better word to describe it). I was actually expecting a Jazz track but this is a pleasant surprise!

The song "light a fi-re, right in my heart!".."Fireworks" is a dance pop song, the music was c/o SJA and they both wrote the lyrics. 

I'm really impressed with how YH is pushing the boundaries in his musicality by collaborating with senior artists rather than doing the expected route (for Boices, I think) - duets with his idol friends Ailee and IU.

SJA singing YH's Mileage
 YH singing SJA's Spring Girls

Live Well: Just Do It, Just Say It

Yay! I finally made time to start blogging again. I can't believe it's already halfway through the first month of 2016 and I haven't finished my personal projects. I have pending posts for last December's Japan trip, I haven't started exercising and I'm still halfway through my photobook projects! At the end of last year, I switched to PLDT myDSL for my condo's internet connection and since then I've only been productive on my drama marathons! I need to work on my personal projects productivity!!!

Speaking of drama marathons, I'm currently hooked on "Cheese on the Trap". It's a Korean drama based on a web cartoon about Hong Seol and Yoo Jung. They are both over-achieving college students. Hong Seol is the best student in their class because she's a hard worker. She also comes from a slightly dysfunctional family setup that requires her to be self sufficient to be able to attend school. Yoo Jung is also diligent and/but a chaebol in the making, meaning he will inherit his family's business after he graduates. I like the fresh take on the college stereotypes, or  maybe because I haven't been watching any other school drama after "The Heirs".Of course, it's a boy meets girl story and I can really say that their chemistry is amazing as they've had a lot of heart fluttering moments!

But my favorite scene so far is this

Hong Seol needs to pass the group project and their teacher emphasized that everyone should contribute. Unfortunately, her teammates saw her as a free pass. With her scholarship on the line, Hong Seol had no choice but to complete everything by herself! During the presentation, it was obvious that she did everything, even her teammate's spiels. The professor gave all of them a, "D".

I was able to relate to that situation, I admit I've had my "Hong Seol" moments when I was a student and early in my career. Yes, doing the entire group project or working on a colleague's part instead of working together...because it's easier that to communicate to finish the project together. Recently, I've realized that I've unconsciously practiced being very outspoken. I was speaking out before but I've reached a new mindset wherein I'm empowered to speak my mind, give direct feedback - hopefully constructive. I've realized that I really need others to accomplish things, especially my team goals and I certainly can't do everything by myself. Well, I think, I can but I'll go crazy. So lately, instead of owning things, I've been leaning to mentoring and coaching others so that I can delegate some tasks to them and in the end it can help us grow together. 

I feel that the turnaround was triggered by an informal training that I got. For half a year now, I'm involved in a global workgroup initiative where everyone are "alpha". We virtually meet at least once a week to talk about a pitch and propose solutions. I've been indirectly trained to  raise the pitch of my voice to be heard and even be sharp everytime to communicate and defend my points. I actually missed this environment where everyone is on their A-game. But it doesn't mean that there needs to be a winner after the discussion because we're all working on a common goal & there's a space for success for everyone. Hopefully, I can mentor people to talk about their work, share their learning and bring their A-game everytime. I'm still in doubt if this is my calling but I would try to make the best out of this current opportunity.