Dropping by a real life Pokémon Center

Whenever I look back at my childhood, Pokémon (Pocket Monsters or Poketo Monsuta in Japanese) will always be a part of my most vivid memories. To an extent, I even practiced my drawing skills and the closest I could get was a sketch of Voltron, Diglet, and Togepi. I remember being proud about those achievements. Nostalgic. To me, Pokémon will never lose its charm.

japan pokemon center

So with my recent trip to Japan, a stopover to one of the Pokémon centers is of course included in my bucket list. Currently there are eight Pokémon centers in the country and the one I visited was in Osaka, which is dubbed as the largest Pokémon center in the world.

pokemon center osaka

Located on the 13th floor of Daimaru Umeda Store in Osaka station, the center is a 10 minute walk using the Midosuji Minami (Midosuji-south) exit.

Admittedly, it is the ultimate gift store for avid Pokémon fans as it touches on your inner child. Here you can buy pokéballs, slippers, stuffed toys, trading cards, keychains, stamps, snacks, etc.

 

I went inside expecting to take home something but there’s no Togepi at the time we visited so I saved some money. Aside from that, I did not notice any of the animé’s human characters like Ash, Misty, Brock, Team Rocket, Professor Oak, Nurse Joy, and Officer Jenny. So, sorry fans of the aforementioned. I also didn’t notice any Jigglypuff, Psyduck nor Snorlax stuffed toys. Despite this, the trip to the Pokémon center was still fun!

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World’s first Kitkat boutique is located in Tokyo

In January this year, a specialized store which sells exclusive Kitkat flavors opened in Tokyo. Kitkat, synonymous to the Japanese word kitto katsu meaning “Good Luck” or “You will surely win”, is a well-loved chocolate not only in Japan but also worldwide so a stop to this place is definitely on the list.

Located at Seibu Department Store, just a few minutes walk from Ikebukuro station, Kitkat Chocolatory is attracting both tourists and locals alike for their wide array of flavors.

kitkat chocolatory japan

Upon our arrival at 10:30 in the morning, a long line of people greeted us, waiting to get their dose of the treat. Turns out that they sell only 300 pieces per flavor per day and the flavors are exclusively sold in that store.
kitkat guy

Each flavors are sold in individual boxes, ready to be given as a gift. But prior to getting your hands on those boxes, a short window shopping trip to Kitkat’s history will entertain you as you wait.

kitkat chocolatory japan

If you have plans on trying exclusive varieties such as Sublime Bitter, Special Chili, Vanilla Cheesecake, and Sakura Green Tea, it would be best to make this stop a first on your list.

sublime bitter kitkat

Other Japanese Kitkat flavours include Wasabi, Azuki Red Bean Toast, Roasted Tea, Rum Raisin, Apple, Purple Potato and Cinnamon Cookie.

special chili kitkat

Prices range from 300-400 yen per box.

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Begin Again (2014)

Begin Again is like a love letter, a plea, and a commentary to and on the music industry. It is full of musical references, including puns and praises, plus a beautiful soundtrack that magically hinges every arc in the story. It has cliché tendencies but it’s a feel good film with a style that will charm its way to your heart and leave you smiling all throughout.

Essentially, music is the core of Begin Again. Music operates on every character portrayed: on why Gretta and Dave drifted apart and why Dan is emotionally distant from his family. The film emphasizes that passion, when mixed with business is a solution for lost art. Eventually, music becomes a tool for them to mend what it has broken.

The film heavily tackles the wins and losses of signing a record label –how it could turn you into a star and how it would redefine an artist based solely on the market influence. It also shows how a single click can influence hundreds and thousands of people in this age of social media.

While the film has nothing brand new to tell, it goes away with a treatment that will win your heart, specifically by showing flashbacks through different perspectives. Musical scoring also serves as a foreshadow to the next scene and admittedly, director John Carney has good ears as all of the songs here will leave you wanting for more.

Armed with a polished set of color tones, Carney made the streets of New York city more inviting as Dan, Gretta and the rest of the crew begin recording medleys on rooftop, in pathways, and in subway platforms in lieu of trimming down expenses and to give off a more artsy vibe.

begin again movie

A scene reminiscent to The Beatles’ rooftop performance

One aspect I liked about Begin Again was the evolution of characters and the way each were given an allowance for mistakes. They were free from judgment or bias, and each embodies the official soundtrack entitled “Lost Stars” really well.

Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a self destructive record executive, an alcoholic who has a disheveled relationship with his former wife and daughter. He handles family issues in a nonchalant way but when it comes to music, his ears are tailored to magically hear things when something beautiful comes his way. Meanwhile Gretta (Keira Knightley) starts off as a weak girl who becomes a strong, free-spirited woman after her break up with Dave (Adam Levine). Knightley stood out in this due to the revelation of her tender and sweet soulful voice that can infect you with its calm and soothing appeal. And there’s also Adam Levine who is unexpectedly a bliss to watch. This is his first movie acting stint and I wasn’t really expecting much from him but to his credit, he was likable even without the mushiness. A scene stealing moment for Levine was the one wherein he tries to seek forgiveness by reverting a song written for him by Gretta back to its ballad form instead of the one heavily manipulated.

Also appearing in a small but pivotal role is Catherine Keene as Ruffalo’s wife, a music journalist who is also a “lost star” in her own right. They have a child, Violet (Hailey Steinfield), a teenage who longs for a male figure in her life. Another character worth noting is Gretta’s ever supportive friend Steve (James Corden), who keeps everything lighter with his comic relief.

Overall,  the film exceeded my expectations for its wit and treatment. To anyone looking for a break from the robots, apes, and other fictional stories, this film which overflows with honesty is not a thing to miss.

Rating: 10/10

Watch the trailer HERE.

 

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Top 17 Movie Characters of 2013

This gallery contains 18 photos.

According to my record, I’ve watched over 50 films in 2013, most of it Filipino-made. That’s a great leap from my record of less than 10 annually, excluding reruns of my favorite romcoms. (Yeah, haha, I’m so busy looking toward … Continue reading

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Easy Zucchini Noodle Recipe

Some days you just want to stay at home and curl up in bed all day. Forecast says that rainy season is up again, hence Manila traffic could get a whole lot worse, too. So to ease the rainy days away, I tried the zucchini pasta recipe from thefatkidinside –sounds healthy right?

I’ve always thought of zucchini as a more beautiful name of cucumber (I know, how shallow). Turns out that zucchini is more like an unriped melon in texture: consistent in toughness, easy to slice as it won’t slip, and tastes refreshing but not sweet. To some extent it is similar to a cucumber as both are green, cylindrical, and have seeds; however the texture of the two varies. Zucchinis appear dry while cucumbers have a bumpy outer core. (AHA!)

The recipe asks to use a Julienne peeler, something I’ve discovered only upon reading the blog. It does wonders of turning vegetables into thin noodle-like strips. I thought we have it at home so I was excited to go straight from work. I rode the MRT and dropped by Landmark to gather my ingredients. Then I mustered Manila traffic. It was raining and everybody’s rushing home. The tiny drops of rain falling on the roof of the jeepney added weight to my excitement and impatience. I can’t wait any longer. I want to do it and try it, for the first time.

When I got home I checked if we have the Julienne peeler, unfortunately no. I almost gave up because the weather makes me feel lazy. But I manually did it. I grated the zucchini patiently using a knife and it was actually a rewarding experience. I promised myself that the next time I do this, I’ll buy a Julienne peeler beforehand. Hahaha!

And so without further ado, here’s the recipe I used. I tweaked it a bit, good for two (on diet) persons:

Ingredients:
1 zucchini, sliced noodle strips
1 riped avocado, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 tbsp. sunflower seeds
4 pcs. small tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 lemon
Basil leaves (optional)

easy zucchini noodle recipe

Procedure:

1. Heat the pan with olive oil.
2. Toss in the garlic. Don’t burn.
3. Place the sliced zucchini in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Turn off the heat.
5. Add the tomato and sunflower seeds in the pasta. Mix carefully.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Squeeze in the lemon and top with basil. (For this version, I used dried oregano as there was no basil available in the market earlier)
8. Serve!

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total cost: Around 300php

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Globe Text Scam

*beep beep*

“Someone texted me!”

I come running to see who is it and then I saw this:

globe text scamWhat? Really? Wait, what?

Reading the first part of the text made me feel hopeful (gullible mode: 10% activated) but then I checked the sender’s number which seems invalid since local Telecommunications company often use three or four digits. In my mind I’ve cursed him a lot; many times, even lifetimes –for trying to fool me not just with a Globe promo, but with a message full of errors as well. Then I got back to reality and cursed him continuously and proceeded to delete it.

I sighed.

And then I sent him this:

globe text scam game of thronesHell hath no fury, right Mr. Martin?

So next time, don’t play with my emotions okay??? Choose your battles wisely, man.

And Globe, can you do something about this? For the love of your subscribers who are on the brink of changing network provider due to these kind of instances, do something. First, take a look at my growing list of text spammers. They are increasing every day. I’m not even glad about it.

globe scam

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Puppies? Maybe, definitely!

20140607-205730-75450994.jpg

It’s been five days since Maybe gave birth to four healthy and beautiful puppies. So far, so good. Since then, Maybe has become a bit picky with her food and only likes to eat lugaw and drink pet’s milk. She’s lost a lot of weight after giving birth so we need to provide her enough nutrition as much as possible.

Surviving the first night was hard especially since I have the fear that the puppies might die of suffocation or not enough milk similar to Maybe’s first pregnancy, so I stayed up all night to monitor them.

At some point I woke up and felt nervous when I realized I slept so I immediately jumped out of the couch and checked the puppies. I counted them and there were only three! I thought Maybe ate one of her puppies but after careful inspection, I found out that the other one was just sleeping behind her mom. Oh boy, I was so relieved.

It’s Maybe’s second time to give birth and it turned out to be okay –even better. Her first pregnancy was uneventful because no puppies survived. There was one but he died of suffocation overnight. So this time around, we wanted to make sure everything will turn out okay. Luckily there were four of them (2 boys, 2 girls) and we’re so happy to present them to you:

puppy
This is Maybe’s first born puppy and he’s clingy! He often cries when he feels he is away from his mom. He’s so sweet!

puppy
Her name is Hiccup, only girl in the group. Her front right foot didn’t develop fingers and it’s easy to think that she’s the weakest among the puppies but so far, she is a fighter.

puppy
This one is the most hungry of them all. You will often see this puppy struggling to find his way to his mom’s milk but once found, she will stay there and mark that place as his territory. She loves to sleep on top of her siblings, possibly the one who needs a lot of exercise in the future!

puppy

And this is the Snorlax of the group. He is the most slept and also the more nourished one. It’s not hard to look after this one because he’s often away from everyone as he always likes to have his Me time.

 

For updates on the puppies, here’s a woof woof BLOG! :)

Here’s a video of them:

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Taylor Swift Live in Manila 2014

06 June 2014
SM MOA Arena

Crowd starts flocking the vicinity at around 6PM. Most people wear red and/or stripes, with statements on their tees or on their faces such as “Loving Taylor is RED,” or “LUCKY,” or “13.” People outside the waiting area are patiently asking for tickets, even at a much higher price, just to see Taylor perform live. Official merchandise are also available outside. The line queue for the entrance is organized, you have to do a fashion ramp prior to entering the arena as ushers are only letting the people pass per batch. While waiting we hear the fireworks in the sky. And then there was rain.

taylor swift red tour

With the stage set up as a big, colorful storybook, Taylor Swift painted the crowd RED by performing hit songs from her current and previous albums.

The seven time Grammy award winner opened the night with a grand red cloth covering the stage showcasing just her shadow. She sings State of Grace, which intensified the energy of the crowd. What’s amusing to see was aside from seeing her perform live, was she looks to the crowd with bright eyes, as if she was a kid who saw a dome full of candy. She’s too happy to see the Manila crowd the second time around and words was never spoken but her expression tells everything.

taylor swift live in manila

If I have to choose one color to represent all of those emotions that go in falling in love and having your heart broken –the color that I would choose, Manila –would be bright, burning RED.

Our seats were the farthest in the arena (General Admission). Tickets were sold out in two days and we weren’t able to avail of it but we managed to buy directly from the organizer who have complimentary tickets with extra Php 1000 fee –the price you pay for being a fan.

In the photo above, Taylor sings one of my favorite songs from her Red album, All Too Well. Normally, Taylor would appear poignant or fierce upon singing this song but this time, she smiled! And it was a really sweet moment for us because of the song’s significance. It created a new layer of experience after that smile.

taylor swift manila

During some instances, she will just stand there in the stage, staring at the crowd, standing in awe, fixing her hair, smiling. These little things don’t mean that much on an ordinary day but seeing your favorite artist perform live and connect with the audience as if a friend is the one on stage, the feeling is overwhelming

Taylor turns her back at you coz we are never ever ever getting back together

Swift is now a lady walking down the concert stage. Gone are the days when her hair is curly, her songs talk about young love with a romeo and juliet story. She’s grown to become a graceful lady. With time, she’s become more vulnerable and cautious, as evident in her songs. Watching her felt like seeing a doll perform with these emotions that make her human –pain, love, loss, happiness, longing. If she’s guilty of anything, it is of translating all these emotions into songs and we love her for everything she is and more.

taylor swift manila red tour

Setlist:

1. State of Grace
2. Holy Ground
3. Red
4. You Belong With Me
5. The Lucky One
6. Mean
7. Stay Stay Stay
8. 22
(B-Stage)
9. I Almost Do
10. Begin Again
(Back to main stage)
11. Sparks Fly
12. I Knew You Were Trouble
13. All Too Well (Piano)
14. Love Story
(Encore)
15. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

 

And now, the after party scenery:

Come, let’s take a pic with Taylor. *goes to one of the big Ked posters*

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The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

TFIOS

Vulnerability is a concept too easy to embrace nor reject. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is a risky thing to do but as with the matters of life and living it, they say you’re not doing it right if you shun away from it.

I did not intend to watch The Fault In Our Stars because people have been saying that it’s an ultimate cry-fest film about two cancer patients who fell in love. At first, I thought that it was just another A Walk to Remember movie but I wanted to give it a chance so I watched it.

I did not read the book so I have no further background aside from the gut feeling that someone will die. When I watched the trailer and heard the male lead say “life is good, Hazel Grace,” I thought maybe this movie had a different attack. The truthfulness and optimism of the trailer is inviting and the movie delivered all these and more. It confirmed the advice of the people around me prior to watching: bring tissue; don’t say we didn’t warn you.

True enough, the film is nearly flawless. It took me to an emotional roller coaster ride with its simplicity and poignancy backed up with a beautiful soundtrack featuring One Republic, Birdy, M83, Grouplove, and Ed Sheeran to name a few.

Starring two cancer patients who literally met in the heart of Jesus, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) face every person’s fear of living in a world that is out of their control and together they strive to fight for their utmost desires.

The movie opens up with Hazel Grace being diagnosed with depression as a side effect of cancer but she contradicts this by saying “depression is not a side effect of cancer. It is a side effect of dying.”

Armed with clear views on mortality, Hazel Grace appears to be somewhat cynic and sarcastic. But the charming Gus who is fond of metaphors dare believe something else –the notion to be remembered despite losing his right leg to cancer.

Portrayed as a cheesy and caricature-like 18 year old who drives terribly, Gus will make you tear up a bit with his pungent quips especially the one where he said that the world is not a wish-granting factory. But on top of everything else, Gus is cheesy and lovable, practically almost every girl’s dream. Though it would help to show more of Gus’ character flesh out, what they sticked with turned out fine. Together, the main leads performances are encompassing and far from annoying.

Another notable character is Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), author of An Imperial Affliction, Hazel Grace’s favorite book. Van Houten is an alcoholic who hates Americans and now resides in Amsterdam. He is a crucial character in the movie, presumably one of the villains aside from the leads’ terminal disease. Dafoe’s portrayal is effectively employed alongside the hopeful leads who want nothing but closure from their favorite author.

TFIOS is a movie that will thaw even the coldest of hearts; it will genuinely move you. Cancer is no easy sell but to combine it with Holocaust, that’s just too heavy to bear. The movie centers on pain and it plays it really well as it intends its viewers to feel and care for the characters and they’ve succeeded on this.

Gus and Hazel Grace’s love deserves a happy ending and they got it, just not in the way the usual romance stories do. Alongside its realism about the uncontrollable facets of life, the movie teaches the significance of the word “okay” not just as a term of endearment but also a lesson about life in general.

Rating: 9/10

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Ed Sheeran in the Friendzone

There’s a thin line between being friends and being lovers, and Ed Sheeran sure knows that.

Released as a bonus track included in his recent single Sing,  the track titled “Friends” was said to be not a part of his upcoming album X (to be released on June 23). Strumming with his guitar, the ballad feels like a love letter to a so-called friend. The song reminds me of John Mayer but with the typical heart tugging Ed Sheeran flavor.

Despite the semblance, the 24 year old musician remains to convince me that he has no capability of doing any bad song, at all. But I wonder who this friend is. Could this be a pre-Don’t song? Hmmm….

We’re not, no we’re not friends, nor have we ever been
We just try to keep those secrets in our lives
And if they find out, will it all go wrong?
I never know, no one wants it to

So I could take the back road
But your eyes’ll lead me straight back home
And if you know me like I know you
You should love me, you should know

Friends just sleep in another bed
And friends don’t treat me like you do
Well I know that there’s a limit to everything
But my friends won’t love me like you
No, my friends won’t love me like you

We’re not friends, we could be anything
If we tried to keep those secrets safe
No one will find out if it all went wrong
They’ll never know what we’ve been through

So I could take the back road
But your eyes’ll lead me straight back home
And if you know me like I know you
You should love me, you should know

Friends just sleep in another bed
And friends don’t treat me like you do
Well I know that there’s a limit to everything
But my friends won’t love me like you
No, my friends won’t love me like you

But then again, if we’re not friends
Someone else might love you too
And then again, if we’re not friends
There’d be nothing I could do, and that’s why

Friends should sleep in other beds
And friends should kiss me like you do
And I know that there’s a limit to everything
But my friends won’t love me like you
No, my friends won’t love me like you
Oh, my friends will never love me like you

 

Tissue, anyone?

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