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Monjayaki in Tsukishima

On my last evening in Tokyo, I was invited to a very traditional dinner by the Japan team.  I kept on thinking that traditional is equivalent to formal and I was thinking that  I was actually going to a Japanese Okiya and will be served by Geisha and Maiko.  Repeatedly, my Japanese colleagues kept saying that we are going to a traditional restaurant – and it’s very casual.  So it seems like that traditional meal would have to be saved for another Japan trip.

To write this blog post,  I have to look up “Japanese Pancake” from the internet and found the Japanese translation: Okonomiyaki.   We didn’t have Okonomiyaki because we were heading to Tsukishima – home of another variant of the Japanese pancake: Monjayaki.   You can’t get more authentic and Japanese than this.  Tsukishima has a street called Monja st.  It is said that Monjayaki was invented on that street.

A Street in Tsukishima

One of the Traditional Style Restaurants in Tsukishima

Our Table

For this dining experience, we entered a traditional Japanese house.  We sat on the floor and our table has a frying area similar to what you will see in the more familiar Teppanyaki.  In fact – part of the meal was Teppanyaki.    Imagine a small house with a dozen Teppan pans – and Japanese men and women enthusiastically grilling their food – after the dinner – I smelled like Grilled meat and Vegetables.  As I write this two days after,  the smell of delicious grilled food is still in my mind.


I was with a predominantly male group.  There was one lady from our Manila office, and one lady from my team in Japan.  The two men that I spoke with don’t like cooking – so we asked the lady from the restaurant to cook our Monjayaki.  Our other Male colleagues cooked on the other end of the table.  Watching them cook their “versions” of Monjayaki looked like watching an Iron Chef match. 


It was a great dinner with great food.  Our Japanese hosts on that night were gracious as always.   It also seems like they  realized that I’ve been drinking too much the whole week and we ended early.  Or  maybe they wanted to get home to their family for the weekend.   Whatever the reason – I was happy that I had the great dinner without the binge drinking.

On My Way Home

It’s my last day in Tokyo.  I met up with family – and if you are Filipino – you will know that I’m referring to extended family.  The Filipinos’ definition of family goes beyond the typical nuclear family of parents and children.  It doesn’t even just extend to your parent’s siblings and their children… it goes beyond that.  They can be 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th cousins and they are still family.  Anyways – I digress.   More about my family and how big it is in another post.  This time – I want to tell you about meeting up with family in Tokyo and dragging them to the Meiji Shrine.

The queens never got to see the Meiji shrine the last time we visited because we took the wrong turn upon alighting from the Harajuku station.  This time – I did better research and found it quickly.  We braved the rains and got wet and cold but I just know I wanted to see the shrine.

I have a lot of pictures that require some editing because the rain just caused my pictures to be overexposed or underexposed.  It definitely does not give justice to the beauty of the shrine.   However – there is a familiar shrine that we unexpectedly saw in the same place.  Here is the picture:


You are right – this is the Golden Pagoda in Tokyo – but in a miniaturized version.

I am now writing this post while waiting for my flight.  It’s still raining out there – but I’m trying to keep myself warm with the refreshments from the Airline lounge.  It’s been a good trip back to Tokyo but I am definitely ready to go home to my dogs and the house of queens.

Revisiting Shibuya

There is a storm in Okinawa and the storm has brought in some rain in Tokyo.  This threw off my schedule since I planned to go to the top of Roponggi Hills tower to take a shot of the Tokyo skyline at night.  I was tempted to just stay in and get an early night but one of the queens encouraged me to explore the city even if it’s cold and wet outside.

I decided to revisit Shibuya.  You will recall that on our first visit to Tokyo,  Shibuya was the first place we visited – and we witnessed the great Shibuya crossing.  Back then – I was carrying a point and shoot which allowed me to take good pictures.  With the Sony Nex 5 – I have a little bit more flexibility in controls and I decided to play with the shutter speed settings.  I also got the chance to sit on the second floor of the Starbucks store at the Shibuya crossing.   This is a great place to watch the people and the cars in this famous interaction.   I was there for almost an hour just observing and taking the pictures.


Do I really Have to do Karaoke?

If you are Filipino, and you travel around Asia – people will ask if you can sing.  This is understandable because most of the premiere clubs/lounges from Shanghai to Hongkong to Taiwan to Tokyo have Filipino singers.

This is unfortunate for someone like me who can sing on tune most of the time – but who is definitely not able to sing the high notes.  Of course – while in Tokyo – my colleagues expected me to sing.   In times like this – I have one number that I always sing - “I Will Survive”.  

I think my Japanese colleagues now know that not all Filipinos are good singers.


Away for Business

I remember when I was 20 and I looked forward to business trips.  Having a passport and using that passport seems to have been a badge for a young man to wear – showing that he has made it.  Three weeks after graduation I was able to go to Chicago – which was the start of many trips around the world for business.

The first trip was exciting.  The dozen trips after that continued to be exciting.  Seeing different cities even if I only saw the lobby of my hotel and the lobby of my office was exciting.  Almost two decades after that – I now find myself tired from all the travelling.  I actually managed to stop business travels for five years – but my new role in this company seems to have resurrected the need to visit different offices.

Today – I am in Tokyo.  It’s my second day in Tokyo and I have managed to be drunk on those two days.  My Japanese colleagues think that I can actually drink a lot of alcohol because on my first night I managed to drink so much sake and was still able to go to the office the next day fresh and ready for that day’s task.

I’m about to turn in but I want to share pictures of my hotel to all of you.  This proves to be so many levels above the hotel accommodation we had when I visited Tokyo for Holiday.  Looking out the Window – I can see the Tokyo tower.  That’s understandable since I’m staying at ANA Intercontinental.  I tweeted earlier that I actually forget sometimes that I am a business executive – and these are just the perks of being such.  Of course the price of this hotel is more than double what I am willing to pay for out of my own money.

Tomorrow is a busy day.  I have to meet with an important customer.   For now – I am going to be very comfortable in my home away from home: The ANA Intercontinental.


The View


The Bed




Office Desk with Free Internet

Tokyo Bag

Prior to my trip to Tokyo, I accompanied one of the queens in her search for the perfect leopard print scarf.  We went to Louis Vuitton and found that they  mark up they merchandise 100% even for items that are last season.  She eventually found a compromise item.  While looking for her scarf I found this bag.  It’s obviously inspired by the PS1 or the Mulberry Alexa.  It’s a woman’s handbag.  However – I actually recall a scene in Sex and the City 2 where Aidan was carrying a similar Geek Bag.  I bought it and it now carries my camera, passport and half a dozen electronics.  All I can say is that if Indiana Jones or his son was gay – this is how their bag will look like.  I got this bag from Zara  for3,500 pesos.


Roka Salad at Cyma

Roka Salad at Cyma is my favorite Salad in town.  I love the taste of the Parmesan shavings, the strawberry vinaigrette and the Candied walnuts mixed with the bed of lettuce and arugula leaves.  I think Cyma’s candied walnuts is the best in Manila.  Other restaurants put candied walnuts on their salad but I don’t think that there’s one which tastes as good as the one used in Roka salad. 

BTW – I am writing this blog post while waiting for my flight to Tokyo. I am going back to the Land of the rising sun but this time – for business.   Although I’m looking forward to going back to Japan – I know I will miss the residents of the house of queens – especially Midori and Char Siew.  I will be away for a week and this is the longest trip I’ve been away since I got my two dogs.


Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and have conversations with my reflection. I have never denied that I'm the drama queen and pretending I am someone else is an easy task. You might ask what do we talk about? We start with he physical attributes. Our nose being really big usually starts it all up because it's difficult to ignore such a big nose. We then proceed with the scrutiny of all aspects of our face but in the end we tell ourselves how beautiful we turned out to be. We then breathe deeply and without saying a word we tell ourselves "Good Job for living a life worth living."

Starbucks Cup Discount

I bought this tumbler on September 26, 2010.  It’s from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and the price was 500 pesos. 

I buy coffee everyday – most of the time from Starbucks.  They give a five peso discount when you use your personal cup.  It doesn’t matter if it’s not Starbucks branded.  BTW – Starbucks cups are more expensive. 

Today – I just realized that I actually have been using this cup for at least 20 days.  For each of those days – I get a five peso discount.   That’s almost a thousand pesos in savings.  That means that the tumbler has been paid for and I have savings moving forward.

Life is a Big Blur

Life seems to be moving really fast these days that everything is a blur.  My mind can’t keep up.  I think it’s time to stop everything and find a way to focus.

Fruits of My Labor

I have been working for close to two decades.  I am one of the lucky ones – I get paid good money to do work that I am good at and that I enjoy.  Working has not only provided me the title and the material benefits – but it actually gave me the opportunity to uplift the lifestyle of my family.  As a staff – I was even able to send my brother through College – in a very good university.  Today that I’ve progressed beyond being a staff, with my brother having his own job, and single,  I am able to provide for my family and spend the fruits of my labor in life enriching experiences.  I live independently, eat well, travel regularly, and even enrich my life with my two dogs. This post will not outline how I did it.  This blog post is an expression of gratitude for the work that I have that continues to bless my family and me.  And from my experience – when someone is thankful for all the grace one receives – more blessings come.

iPod Touch Camera

The iPod Touch generation 4 comes with a camera.  The camera’s resolution is very low – but it is good enough for those moments when you have to take a picture that you want to post on Facebook or Twitter.   To help a little bit in getting better pictures – especially in low-light conditions,  I downloaded True HDR.  It’s an application which takes three pictures and magically transforms highlights and shadows of those pictures to produce a supposedly properly lit photo.

Here is a sample photo taken while I was having my hair cut.  I could not stay still for the three pictures so in the final picture – it looks as if I have three arms.  BTW – the iPhone fourth Generation camera comes with native HDR capabilities.  



HDR Picture

Shallow Joy

Shallow Joy – is translated from an actual Filipino expression.  It refers to some people’s ability to find Joy in the simplest of things.  As a young child – this was easy for all of us.  I remember the first time that I held a salagubang – a beetle in my hand and I was thrilled.   As I became an adolescent – finding joy became harder.  We become preoccupied by thoughts of being popular, being beautiful and being liked by other people.

Now – that I’m all grown up – past the age when people still call me young – I am starting to rediscover shallow joy.  I think it all started when I got my dogs.  Look at this picture of Midori – we actually seem to have captured her joyful disposition.   She is indeed the house of queens’ jester.  Dogs live for the moment – not worrying about tomorrow and forgetting about any sorrows in the past.

A Divided House

The House of Queens is currently divided.  The Living Area is Midori’s territory.  The Kitchen is Char Siew’s territory.  We have tried to get the two dogs together but they just play rough to the point that Char Siew ends up with Scratches.  Moreover – they end up with each other’s drool and up with drool smell.   As a solution, I bought a baby gate which I place on the Kitchen door.  It’s the border that keeps them apart and it’s the wall that sustains the delicate peace in the house.

DSC00767 DSC00766

Lovely Dinner at Mandarin Tivoli

This week, one of my former bosses posted on her Facebook page that she is in Manila.  She actually hired me in my current position in the company I’m currently working for.  She left a couple of years back after surviving cancer. Like most of my former bosses – we didn’t burn bridges and we kept in touch.

Since both of us had busy schedules – the most that we can really do is meet up for Dinner.  I was actually happy to hear that she is staying at the Mandarin Oriental Manila because this hotel had decent restaurant choices.  It’s been years since I have dined in the Mandarin Tivoli, and I was looking forward to dining there again.  My boss was also thankful for taking her to that restaurant because this was her first really good meal since she started her business travel this week.


The Mandarin Tivoli Amuse-Bouche – Lobster Ravioli

The Mandarin Tivoli experience was a pleasant surprise.  It has always been good but this time – I can definitely say that it delivers a really great dining experience.  I’ve been to another Mandarin Oriental restaurant abroad: Les Normandie – and that was a top notch experience.   This one at Manila – comes really close to that experience – for a fraction of the price.


I Love these Chairs. I also love the Table Setting

The restaurant’s overall ambience and decor is luxurious and I love their chairs and their table setting.  You will actually notice the beautiful print on the charger plate.  Their waiters were very attentive and our own waiter even prepared the salad dressing in front of us.   I have written about a supposedly luxurious restaurant in a previous post – and I will just say that after this experience in Mandarin Tivoli – the other restaurant’s name just seemed pretentious.  If you want luxury – Tivoli is the restaurant for you.


The Caesar Salad Dressing Prepared Fresh


The Caesar Salad Dressing Ingredients

I’m sure you’d like to know how the food was.   They are delicious.  The Millionaire’s salad that we opted to share had lobster, scallops, Foie Gras, and Truffle oil.  The Ceasar Salad was also good and as I said earlier – the dressing was prepared in front of us.  For our main dishes – we ordered the Parmesan Crusted Lapu Lapu, and the Barramundi with Mussel.   We had to have good fish dishes because our guest was from Seattle where there is really good fish.  I’m telling you those fish dishes were divine.


Parmesan Encrusted Lapu Lapu (Grouper)


Barramundi and Mussels Rissoto


Cesar Salad with Scallops


Millionaire Salad with Scallops, Lobster, Foie Gras, Mango


Celery Cappuccino with Fried Wanton


After Dinner Treats

In the post prior to this – I indicated that we saw a poster for a Michelin Star chef invited from the Tokyo Mandarin next week.  If I were you – I’d make my reservations.  I’m sure that will be a great culinary experience.


Michelin Star Chef at Mandarin

We don’t have a 3 Star Michelin restaurant or chef in Manila.  There are restaurants which are named in Asia’s dining guides like Antonio’s and recently Masseto.  Masseto was named in The Miele Guide for 2010 – 2011.  However – we still do not have a 3 Star Michelin restaurant in town.

The House of Queens loves a great dining experience.  If it’s of Good quality – we do occasionally splurge.  Tonight, we revisited Tivoli at the Mandarin Oriental – Manila.   I will write about the whole dining experience in tomorrow’s post.  That dining experience was heavenly and we were actually amazed at how it has greatly improved from our last visit to the restaurant.  I am writing this post to highlight a poster that piqued our interest.

Next week – for those who would like to experience Michelin Star dining in Manila – you ay be interested in making reservations at Tivoli.  They are featuring Olivier Rodriquez.  They will not accept walk-ins.  You need to make reservations.  Call 750 8888 or  BTW – Ladies and Gentlemen,  I know that restaurants in Manila do not have strict dress codes but for a dining experience like this – I’d definitely recommend suit jackets for the Gentlemen and the women should at least wear their Little Black Dress.   I am setting up our reservations as we speak – hope to see you there.


Tug of War with My Beagle

One of Midori’s favorite games is Tug of War.  All materials regarding dog obedience warn against playing Tug of War with one’s dog.  To ensure a dog’s obedience, it’s human must ensure that it recognizes the human’s authority over them.  Tug of War is a “dangerous” game because if the dog wins – the human’s Alpha Dog position is questioned.

My Beagle Midori had always been a dominant dog.  It was difficult to get her to obey our commands – which eventually lead to her being sent to Obedience school.  Those were three weeks spent away from us and with the trainer.  When we got her back – it was as if she was a new dog.  It’s been over a year since that training.

Today, Midori exhibits Jekyll and Hyde tendencies.  One minute – she’s an angel and any command you give her she obeys.  Then the next thing you know – she ignores you as if her floppy ears has an off switch somewhere we can’t see. 

Tug of War is her favorite game … which is preceded by a game of tag.  She grabs one of our stuff – and she then runs around the living room till we catch her to grab the “victim” of her game from her mouth.  We command her to “give” the object to us willingly – we pull it from her --- and there are times she gives it up willingly.  If she doe not – I get hold of her lips and open her mouth to free the object.

I have a confession – I actually enjoy this game that Midori plays.  It’s simple and the “conflict” is resolved without drama.  It does make me wish that the Tug of War in human interaction is that simple.

Despicable Me HD is a Tough Puzzle


The Apple iTunes Store launched Despicable Me HD for the iPad.  The launch price was 99c.  I downloaded the application immediately and started playing the game.  I am on stage 9 and could not get past through it.  


This is Just Wrong

This is a collection of images that are funny – and sometimes disturbing.  They are also images that shouldn’t have existed if someone was just paying attention and thinking really hard about the implications of what they were doing before they actually did it.


This is an ad for a supposedly luxurious Apartment Tower. I am not sure how people will go to the upper floors given that there doesn’t seem to be any elevators.  There are four elevetors though – and I’m not sure what those are.


In the Philippines, part of the drug prevention program is the compulsory drug testing during Driver’s license Renewal.  They are outsourced to accredited drug testing clinics.  This is one of those Drug Testing centers.  I am not sure what they’re laughing about.  Maybe – it’s the easy money they earn for conducting the test which should be free in the first place.


I try to be nice in my tweets most of the time.  The other day – I had a little bit more motivation in staying Nice --- the Big Guy on the North Pole started following me.  I want to be on his nice list.  However – do you really want Santa Claus to be following you on Twitter?   There are days when I just need to be naughty – and the only outlet I have is Twitter.


This sign had two typo errors.  I am not sure what Garic Squid is – but I’d forgive that.  What I can’t forgive is the second typo error.   I eat most parts of the pig --- but one thing I’d definitely not want to taste is SWEAT and SOUR pork.

Speaking of Pork – the last picture in this post is just plain Wrong.  Mr. Butcher – I do not need to be reminded that the Ground Pork used to be a cute animal.  Please – please don’t remind me!  I was planning to have Lumpiang Shanghai for this week but had to change my mind because I didn’t have the heart to CARVE a half kilo of meat from this pig.