The perfect guesthouse in Gion (Kyoto, Japan)

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As mentioned in an earlier post, my wife and I decided to take our two year old son to Kyoto for a weeklong holiday. Because we wanted to visit during sakura (cherry blossom) season, we actually booked our tickets almost a year ago and started looking for places to stay, at the recommendation of friends in Kyoto, in early September. Because sakura season (which is the end of March and early April) is so popular, most places get snapped up months in advance. I actually advice booking your own accommodations no later than August the previous year if you can plan that far in advance. Continue Reading →

Shave and a haircut… two bits… well, a bit more at Truefitt & Hill Singapore

Experience true luxury at Truefitt & Hill

For most of us guys, a shave is something we do in the mornings, as part of our get-ready-to-go-to-work ritual. It is not something we necessarily associate with luxury. That is, until we experience our first really exceptional wet shave, performed by someone else. Continue Reading →

Supporting local talent: When I was four

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A couple of years ago, my friend Lynda gifted me with a canvas tote bag that had a quirky and beautifully illustrated print. It was a gorgeous print of a loaf of bread with its Chinese name enclosed in dotted boxes. I thought the design was pretty ingenious. If you were in primary school back in the 1980s (yes, you can start figuring out my age), the bag will bring back memories of writing Chinese characters within the dotted boxes and figuring out the correct hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音). Another huge reason why I love this bag is because it features one of my favourite things to bake – bread. This is one foodie gift I greatly enjoy carrying around.

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A fun workshop in decorating Aizu lacquer

Two lacquer plates as decorated by me and my guide

As you can see from the posts that have come before this on, there are many things to see and do when vacationing in Tohoku. There are wonderful onsens to bathe in, great drink to be tasted and purchased, and incredible food to eat. There’s also a rich cultural heritage to explore. One city worth stopping in is Aizu Wakamatsu, which is the main city in Aizu, in the western part of Fukushima. Continue Reading →

The Matsushima Oyster Festival and a visit to Entsuin Temple

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Matsushima, a small city near Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture (in Tohoku, Japan), is worth visiting any time of the year. The Japanese consider the views of Matsushima Bay, teeming with more than 260 small islands, to be one of the most beautiful views in the country. As you may or may not know, the Japanese love making lists. Especially lists that rank things. They are also a people obsessed with natural beauty, man-made beauty and festivals. So, for centuries, they have designated and celebrated things like the country’s top three gardens, Kyoto’s top five Zen temples, Japan’s top three festivals featuring floats, Kamakura’s top ten wells, etc. Most famous among the many designations might be Japan’s three most scenic places. Selected several hundred years ago, they are Matsushima, Miyajima and Amanohashidate.  Continue Reading →

Tohoku, Japan’s onsen (hot spring) paradise

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There are few things as relaxing and pleasurable than taking a bath–Japanese style–in natural hot spring water. For those of you who have yet to experience the joys of the onsen (the Japanese term for hot springs and baths using their waters), you have no idea what you are missing. I, myself, didn’t until a few years ago. For most of my life, I’ve been a shower person. I truly didn’t see the point of and never appreciated baths. But then, for a consultancy gig I had undertaken for a hotel collections company, I spent two and half weeks visiting some of Japan’s most beautiful and unique boutique hotels and inns, several of which boasted onsens among their main selling points.  Continue Reading →

Higashiya: translating Japanese culture for contemporary palates

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Before I had even experienced modern wagashiya (Japanese confectionary shop), Higashiya for myself, I was already enamoured of the discreet yet clearly orchestrated style of the brand; by the time I had my first Higashiya encounter, I was well and truly hooked. Continue Reading →

Best Cookbooks of 2012

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I am a cookbook junkie. I have an entire bookcase of cookbooks and food related non-fiction titles. And I have been trying to wean myself from this addiction. Unfortunately, in 2012 there were so many exciting new cookbooks introduced that I couldn’t resist. After reading about so many in my “go-to” food magazines, websites and blogs, I narrowed it down to the top six cookbooks of 2012. These were the most recommended, most blogged about, most inspiring cookbooks of 2012 – and I acquired them all. I simply couldn’t resist and I am glad I didn’t because now I am experimenting with all sorts of cuisines I love but had previously rarely made at home.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Christmas is coming up fast. And while some of you may have already completed all your holiday shopping, I’m sure there are many more who are still seeking out the perfect gifts for your loved ones. The below list are some of my favourite things–gifts that I’ve purchased for family and friends, or gifts that I’ve been fantasizing about receiving myself. In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, I’ve kept to 12 gifts, one for each day. I hope some of the below inspire you. Happy Holidays!  Continue Reading →

Holiday Treats and a Crazy Christmas

Tis almost the season and in preparation of the holiday period, I’ve been planning what to serve family and friends who come-a-visiting. My own two favourite holiday treats are eggnog and Mexican wedding cookies (pictured above). Another great holiday tradition is Dream Academy‘s Crazy Christmas show.   Continue Reading →