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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I write songs, I sing them... I play the piano and a little bit of the guitar.. I've released 5 albums of music, I love the scent of freshly fallen rain and the scent of lavender on bedsheets. I would drink tea all day long if the caffeine didn't keep me up at night. I hate driving in L.A traffic. I would love to one day catch the squirrel that steals the plums from my tree and make him a pet. I don't watch TV anymore. My 3 year old daughter is more entertaining than any TV show could ever be :)

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

5 days in Tokyo

DAY 1
Tuesday, 25th September 2007
============================

Monday was a very long day of promotions
so thank goodness we had today off.

Mike and his wife Eva pick us up from the
hotel at 2 p.m and we head to the Asakusa area
of Tokyo,famous for it's shopping street leading to
a temple. We reach there at about 3 p.m

We walk around a bit looking for a place to have lunch
before we stumble upon a small restaurant in a shophouse
serving a 'claypot'-like traditional Japanese rice dish.

The menu
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However, unlike a claypot dish,
it is served in a metal bowl encased in a wooden box.
I order the scallop rice dish and it is delicious.

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For appetizers we had some salt-encrusted ginko-like
nuts and fried yam, sweet-potato-like sticks which
are all very yummy.

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Kavin ordered some yakitori with rice, and an
egg dish with yam and other grilled
meats like minced meat balls and pork wrapped
around basil leaf.

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Altogether, a great meal,
and good company with Mike and Eva.

Then we walked around the Asakusa area and saw
a bit of the temple there, and browsed through
some of the shops along the way. There were
quite a number of tourists in the area.
We also saw a Totoro shop featuring characters
and merchandise from the Miyazaki films like
'Kiki's delivery' and the Totoro films.

View of the temple
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Posing like a bunny at a Tenugui (handpainted cotton towel) shop
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After this, we headed to the Harajuku area.
It is an area filled with stores selling the latest
trends and fashions in clothing and somewhat
resembles a 'beverly hills' feel, with all the
brand name clothing stores that line the street.

We walk into Kiddy Land and I'm fascinated with
all the cute merchandise. The Japanese have
a way of making things really cute and so there
are little stuffed toys of rice mochi balls,
stuffed toys of koala biscuit characters, cute toy rabbits,
hamsters, teddy bears with kawaii (very cute)
expressions.

Eva and I go ga-ga over the miniatures that are
on display and I pick out two boxes of miniatures
and she picks out three. The miniatures are
mostly those of small tiny dishes, like teddy
bear cookies or rabbit shaped rice cakes, all
in miniaturised form. Kawaii!!

Outside Kiddyland
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After this, we walk along the small shops along
the back alleyways and I spot a Chihuahua dressed
like its master, in denim pants and a bright pink
chequered shirt.



We also spot a Takoyaki (balls of savoury pancake-like
consistency filled with octupus) stall along the way
and Mike buys some for us to try.
The takoyaki is topped with Mentaiko, mayonnaise
and sprinkles of Nori seaweed and it is Oishii. (ie. delicious!)
We sit outside the Wafflish Waffle clothing store
to enjoy the Takoyaki in the cool summer/fall breeze.

We then walk around Harajuku a little bit more
before heading for Ramen noodles for dinner.

When we got back to the car, I realised that I'd
misplaced the plastic bag with the miniatures I'd
bought from Kiddy Land and I wasn't sure where
I'd left it, but thought that it might have been left
outside the Wafflish Waffle store. Anyway, Eva
said that she'd call the Wafflish Waffle store
in the morning to see if anyone found the bag outside
the store and told me not to worry about it,
mentioning that she'd left something at a bus-stop
once and when she went to look for it a week later,
it was still there. In general, she said, Japanese
usually left things where they were and did not
take what didn't belong to them.

Mike and Eva sent us back to the hotel.
About an hour later, Mike called Kavin to say that he'd found
my plastic bag with the miniatures on the floor outside
the Wafflish Waffle store. They had been so sweet to drive back
there to look for my little bag of miniatures. I was touched.
Mike mentioned that now, I did not have to worry and could have
a good night's rest. That was really considerate and sweet
of them.


==============================
DAY 2
26th September 2007, Wednesday

We travelled to the Ropponggi area,
to Tokyo FM, a radio station located within a Starbucks
Coffee Shop on the patio level of an office/mall complex.

There, we met with Sam, my interpreter for the day.
We also met Tepei another employee with S2S.
Tepei and Tochikubo helped to set up the keyboard
and microphone for the 'live' broadcast performance
I would do for the radio show.

Mike and Uchida were also there. In between
soundcheck, vocal warm-ups (I found a nice quiet
spot to do this near the B2 elevator stop) and the
programme, I found some time to chat with Sam
and learnt that she used to live in the States
but moved back to Japan when 9/11 happened.

She's married to a Japanese-Indian and together
they raise their two daughters, speaking to them
in English and Japanese and her father-in-law
tries to incorporate the Indian culture and language
to his granddaughters as well. Her mum-in-law,
Japanese herself, cooks two separate meals every
day, one Japanese meal for herself and one
Indian meal for her husband.

It truly is a global village that we are living in;
navigating the different cultures that we are a part
of, painting our identities in different colours,
trying to make a masterpiece out of the myriad of options
we have in our global setting.

Sam and I
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Even as I'm writing this, a Caucasian gentleman sits
across from me at this Japanese restaurant and speaks
to the waitress in Japanese. So who is more Asian?
I, the more Asian-looking one who can't speak Japanese
or him, with his Caucasian features, but Asian leanings and Japanese fluency?
How does one define what cultural boundaries exist?
It all makes for a very interesting discussion on identity
within this increasingly global world we live in.

So, 12.25 p.m rolls along and I have my interview with DJ
Akasaka on the "All That Radio" programme where I do a 'live'
performance of 'Little Superhero Girl' and 'Shelter'
and Sam helps to translate my answers to the interview questions
into Japanese. It's nice that a small crowd gathers outside
the studio to watch as I sing and DJ Akasaka says that it's
not often that a crowd gathers, so it's a good sign :)

Singing 'Shelter' for the live radio broadcast of "All That Radio" programme
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Once the interview is done, Uchida, Kavin and I walk
towards the HMV TV headquarters, buying a few sandwiches
and pastries from a deli along the way, for our lunch.
The interview is to be broadcast in all the HMV
stores in Japan.

In the studio at HMV TV

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Pic with the HMV TV staff
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Thanks to Mike for getting my lost miniatures back :)
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Next up is an interview for the "Dave Fromm Show"
at InterFM where I perform 'Little Superhero Girl'
and 'Shelter' live on the radio programme.
It's a nice touch that Dave plays the old 60's song
'Corinna, Corinna' as we're talking about how
my mother named me after the song.
There is also a nice audio background of Carole King
playing her songs as we talk about my collaboration
with her on "If You Didn't Love Me". I like
the fact that he puts in the extra effort with
the audio snippets. Dave is also lovely to chat with.

In the studio on the "Dave Fromm Show"
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With Dave Fromm
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I find out that he's been in Japan for about 20 years
and spoke Japanese to his mom who is Japanese. Before
living in Japan, he lived most of his life in St. Louis, Missouri.
which explains his American accent. It's fascinating
to meet yet another person who is defining what it means
to live in our global village.

He tells me too, that he and his radio programmers liked
the 'Beautiful Seed' album and so decided to invite
me on their show. Sweet :)

[just an aside, this next picture was taken from the ladies restroom.
Notice the button that says 'Flushing Noise'? Apparently, japanese
women were so embarrased by the sound of their using the toilet
that they would be flushing the water continuously to mask their
sounds. So, in order to save water, manufacturers of bidets in Japan
added this feature, so women could have their flushing sounds and save their water and dignity in the process :) Interesting, eh?]

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Following this, we went back to the Ropponggi area
where we had another radio interview in the same Starbucks
radio station, but this time, the interview was for Digital Radio 702
and the DJ Mie was lovely to talk to. Sam was also on hand
to interpret my comments and answers and she did a wonderful
job. I sang 'Little Superhero Girl' and it was heartwarming to
see that a small group of people had gathered outside the studio's
glass walls along the street outside to listen and to lend their
support and to applaud after the song was sung.
I also sang live renditions of 'Shelter' and 'Beautiful Seed'.

On the show with DJ Mie and interpreter Sam
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hey we're on cyberspace
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With DJ Mie Saito
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Uchida, Mike, Tochikubo, Kavin and I had dinner after this
at a Japanese restaurant, Izakaya restaurant specialising in 'small dishes',
a sort of Japanese dim-sum place. We had yummy fried rice,
a sort of steam-boat soup, some mixed yakitori, mentaiko and cheese
'spring-rolls' and some egg dish with bittergourd. It was
all very yummy.



==============================
Day 3
Thursday 27th September 2007

Tochikubo meets us in the hotel lobby and drives us to
FM Osaka in the area of Tokyo called Azabu.

Sam is there waiting for us when we arrive.
The DJ Snoopy (so called because her friend
thinks she looks like snoopy and gave her the nickname)
has a host of Snoopy stuffed toys and Snoopy things in
the studio which is housed in an apartment-like
setting. DJ Snoopy mentions that I look very
Japanese and that I could easily be mistaken for being
Japanese. I tell her it's probably because of my big
eyes :)

In the studio with DJ Snoopy and Sam.
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DJ Snoopy and I
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Next up, we take a cab to the Ropponggi Hills area
to have an interview with J-wave radio.
It's a modern looking, big studio and radio station
with a lovely view of the surrounding Tokyo area,
including the Tokyo tower which transmits radio
signals to the whole of Tokyo.

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In the studio with DJ Noa
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The interview is for "Asience Spirit of Asia",
a programme hosted by DJ Noa Kaneka who conducts
a wonderful interview with an emphasis on
the perspective of Asian women in the world today.
Mike mentions that he thinks it's my best interview
so far and that DJ Noa did a great job conveying the
essence of my answers.

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After this, Mike drives Tochikubo, Kavin and myself
to Yokohama for the next radio interview at FM
Yokohama. Along the way, we pass through Komazawa, an
area that seems to have a lot of pet stores.

Yokohama is an hour's drive away from Tokyo and
the radio station is within the Landmark Tower
in Yokohama.

The programme 'Radio Dock' is with DJ Yoko,
a German-Japanese lady. I suppose that the name
Radio Dock is in reference to Yokohama's port
city status and Mike points out later
that Yokohama has quote a number of old colonial,
western-architectural styled buildings because
a lot of the early Europeans who came to Japan
passed through Yokohama.

The interview goes well and I sing a 'live'
version of 'Little Superhero Girl'.

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With DJ Yoko
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The view outside the studio window of the dock area and a ferris wheel
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After this, we head for dinner at Yokohama's
Chinatown where we eat at a famous Chinese
restaurant. Kavin helps to order mabo tofu,
crab with black bean sauce, stir-fried bok choy,
stewed pork, and the speciality, an okonomiyaki-like
egg, noodle dish which is a fusion of Japanese
and Chinese cuisine.

Yokohama's Chinatown
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Speciality dish

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Dinner is good and we all down ginger ales.
No beer that night for Uchida who had to drive back
to Tokyo. :)

We head back to Tokyo after dinner, passing
along the Rainbow bridge and going through Tokyo's
metropolitan expressway.

The rainbow bridge at night


============================
DAY 4
Friday, 28th September 2007

Tochikubo meets us at the hotel lobby
and we take the subway from Shinagawa
station to the office building of the
Daily Yomiuri, Japan's largest daily
with a circulation of 10 million copies.

When we get there, we meet up with Kana
my interpreter for the day.

Reporter Nishida interviews me on my music
and the album and it is a good indepth
interview about the inspirations behind
the songs and the recording process and decisions
behind the making of the album.

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After this, we stop by the Tower Records
at Shinjuku to sign the cd display there
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and then travel to NHK radio for an interview
for the programme 'Asian Pop Wind' with DJ Sakiya.
It is a one-hour radio programme and interview
and we talk about the albums 'Beautiful Seed',
'Safe in A Crazy World' and 'Fly Away' and
we also play some selections of music
from some Singaporean musicians. I choose
some songs to be played from Singaporean
musicians. Tanya Chua's 'MoQi', Electrico's
'Only Where I'm Going', Kit Chan's (Dick Lee
penned) 'Home, and Shirlyn Tan's 'Window'.
Kana helps to translate my answers and the
programme will also run on the inflight
entertainment channel of Japan Airlines flights.

With DJ Sakiya
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We make some time after that to visit the Tower
Records head office in Shibuya and to meet with
the staff there. It's nice to meet up also
with Imaizumi-san who is a staff at Tower Records,
but who is also a fan :)

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One last interview before the end of the day.
'Plug-In', a web-magazine interview is held
at the Zarigani Cafe in Shibuya with Mutsuro Yamagashi,
the article writer and Hidetoshi Hirota, the editor.

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After this, we head to the shopping area to look
for a spectacle shop so that Kavin's glasses can be
fixed as the nose-pad from his glasses is broken.

As Kavin gets his glasses fixed, I have a good time
chatting with Kana. She has a great command of English
and she speaks it with a very pleasant British accent.
We talk about how it's important to pick up language
as a young kid. She herself spent some time during
her childhood in the U.K and so I'm sure that
contributed in part to the way she is able to speak
the language well.

Kana's husband is British and she mentions that she
speaks to her son in Japanese while her husband speaks
to her son in English. That way, they help to raise
the kid in a bilingual environment.

I like Kana. It's comfortable talking to her and I
see her as a friend I'd like to keep in touch with.

Kana and I
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It's fascinating how, on this trip to Japan, I've met
with so many global women and men. Kana and Sam,
both Japanese, but with both Eastern and Western world views
and both married to men from a different cultural background.
The DJ's Dan, Max and Yoko, all speaking Japanese,
but having a western background and culture to draw from as well.

This exchange of cultures, languages...it's truly fascinating

A welcome party by our Japanese record label
S2S follows. We get to meet all the people
who work for S2S and it is also great to see
Ken Suzuki (who founded S2S) again.

The food was great. Good yakitori, cold tofu dishes
some sashimi and yakisoba dishes. It was
also good to get the chance to talk with the
people from S2S.

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=============================
DAY 5
Friday 29th September 2007,
Tokyo time 11.55 p.m

So we've been on the plane SQ12 from Tokyo to
LA for about 5 hours now.

I can't believe that our time in Japan has come
to an end. I was quite sad to have to say 'bye'
to Mike and Uchida just now at the airport.

It's funny how one can become quite fond of another's
friendship in just a short amount of time as a week.

We started off, a week ago, shy, especially with Uchida,
starting off tentative with small talk, but as Paulo
Coehlo says, communication is all about the intention.
If one has the intent to be friends, to communicate,
then it follows that no matter how small or limited
one's common language ability is, the intention will
be conveyed. Beyond the spoken and written language,
there is the language of gestures, eye contact,
facial expressions, vibe, smiles and even music.

And as I write this, I'm thinking about those Japanese
fans I had the pleasure of meeting at the in-store
performance and autograph signing at the Tower Records
in Shibuya today.

Their eyes, their smiles, their enthusiasm, their
handshakes and bows, all conveyed their joy and
appreciation at hearing my music and I feel so blessed
that I had the opportunity to meet each and every one
of them. It was good to have Mike there as well and he
sweetly agreed to help me translate what the fans
said to me. I was moved that a lot of them, took
the effort to speak in whatever English they could
muster, to convey their hope for my return to Japan
to perform for them again some day inthe near future.

So anyway, let's recount the day.
Woke up at 9.45 a.m and stumbled out of bed.
I was rather sleepy as I'd gotten to bed around 2.40 a.m,
so I'd gotten only about 7 hours of sleep.

I got up, slapped on some make-up, did some vocal-warm-ups
and got dressed.

We met Mike and Uchida at the hotel lobby and did our
check-out from the hotel. They'd rented a car to ferry
us and our luggage to Tower Records, so that was really
sweet of them and it made more sense, rather than the
original plan to take the subway and drag our luggage
around.

We reached the Tower Records in Shibuya at about 11.30 a.m
and had some time before the actual soundcheck
for the performance at 12.30 p.m

It was nice to have some time to meet the Tower Records
staff and the AVEX staff who were there to also
see the performance. That was great that they
took the time to come :)

Avex staff and I
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I also had some time to eat a delicious pork cutlet
sandwich, thanks to Uchida for picking up the sandwich
at the Family Mart convenience store :)

The performance started at 1.30 p.m and I enjoyed
it very much. I greeted the audience with a 'Hajimeimashtei'
ie. (lovely to meet you for the first time) and a
'Watashiwa Corrinne May Desu' ie. (my name is Corrinne May)
plus a couple of other greetings that Uchida had helped me
put together. That helped to break the ice with the audience
and I was thrilled that they applauded my attempts to greet
them in Japanese :)

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The set began with Beautiful Seed, led into Shelter, On the Side of Me,
My Little Nephew and Little Superhero Girl and I chatted with
them about my time in Japan and the food that I'd had and shared
with them stories about my nephew in Singapore and my being
far away in Los Angeles. It was great to see that they understood
my stories as some of them nodded to acknowledge that they
got what I was trying to convey.

It was great to meet each fan during the autograph session.

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It was also lovely to see that Eva and Kana and DJ Sakiya
had made the effort and time to come and see the performance.
Lovely too to meet Kana's husband Paul :)

Eva and her friend


Paul and Kana


Thanks to Mike for kindly consenting to be my interpreter for the event
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There was also a couple there, the lady, Shirley is from Singapore
and her hubby is from Japan and they live in Tokyo now.

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Another Japanese couple and their daughter had seen me in my
Singapore concert and had come to lend their support here in
Japan.

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Another fan, Hiroshi, who I had met previously
at the Tower Records in Osaka, had taken the time to travel
the few hours from Osaka to Tokyo to catch my performance again.
That was sweet of him :)

After the autograph session, I signed the cd display at Tower
Records in Shibuya.

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As we walked back to the 'Green room' after the performance,
I was moved that Mike mentioned that he was quite touched
by my performance and that it was nice that he could still be
moved even after so many years of working in A&R.

We took a picture back in the 'green room' with Ken, Mike,
Tochikubo and Uchida.
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[another aside. Did you know that this cell phone (pic below)can receive tv signals,
ie. you can watch tv on your cell phone in Japan for free? Man, the Japanese
are just so technologically savvy :)]
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I was a little hungry by then and it was nice that Mike and Ken
took the effort to get me another pork cutlet sandwich
from the convenience store, even though it was a little distance away.

After this, we bade goodbye to Tepei, Ken, Tochikubo
and Fukutaro. Mike and Uchida then sent us to the airport.

We took some pics together and then said goodbye.
I'm going to miss them.

Uchida and I
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Mike and I
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6 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

I love reading your blogs Corrinne. It's like a nonstop food fest!! Complete with pictures! 8) I love your child like innocence and glee as you describe your days and your .... dinners. Don't ever change that.

I just ordered A Beautiful Seed and The Gift. I can't wait to add them to the other two cds of yours I have. Hope to see you perform live someday back in the states.

God bless you and Kavin,
Mark

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ben_Shirl_Nathaniel said...

hiyah! what a fantastic write up! And I especially lurve the food!! Was drooling away just looking at the food! Shirley and I will definitely make a trip to Japan for a holiday. Almost did it, but changed our plans. Good to see U enjoyed your trip. Looked busy too! The Japanese always intrigued me. Just looking at the photos, you can tell they are so polite and they still manage to tell U how they feel! BTW, I like the interesting device in the ladies loo!

Have a good rest my friend. And "talk" soon!

Ben :)

Monday, October 08, 2007 7:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Huijun said...

Hi Corrine! I sang with SYC in your christmas concert last year. Am very touched to know that you were in Japan as well! Right now I am at Sapporo, Hokkaido, doing a one-year exchange prog at Hokkaido university. It feels really good to know that you've been in Japan too! Please continue to churn out albums - I can't wait for your next one! Take care!

Love,
Huijun

Thursday, October 11, 2007 8:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your pictures. hope you had a chance to try fukuoka tonkotsu ramen. its the best!

Friday, October 12, 2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger The Quek Family said...

My family and I are from Singapore and we are currently staying in Yokohama. We are devastated we missed your visit to Tokyo and Yokohama. Wish we could have invited you to our home for a home cooked chicken rice meal!! Good luck.

Sunday, October 21, 2007 1:26:00 AM  
Blogger Jenny Tan said...

Hi Corrine,

I love the beautiful seed album... all the songs are unbelieveable & lovely especially the "My Little Nephew"... this is my mobile phone ring tone...

God Bless
Jenny

Saturday, November 03, 2007 8:48:00 AM  

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