In Osaka and Fukuoka, Japan
Saturday, 22nd September 2007
We got into Tokyo at about 6 p.m in the evening
and Uchida who is from S2S, our record label in Japan,
picked us up from the airport.
We caught the 7.15 p.m train to the Tokyo station
where we met up with Mike from S2S.
During our walk to and into the train stations, I found
it fascinating to see the myriad of people, all heading in
different directions, heading somewhere, and all the configurations
of train lines, intersecting with countless other
train lines, and food stalls selling everything from
pork cutlet sandwiches, to strawberry cream cheese cakes.
After this, we travelled via the Shinkansen (bullet train)
to Osaka. The Shinkansen is capable of exceeding speeds of
300 km/h! It was quite exciting to speed along on the train
to Osaka and watch the buildings whiz by.
By this time, I was starving as we hadn't managed to
have dinner yet, and so I was extremely grateful
that there was a food cart going around.
We got some pork cutlet and ham and cheese sandwiches
for dinner. The pork cutlet sandwich was delicious
and I washed it down with some orange juice.
Kavin posing with the food cart on the Shinkansen
Inside a Japan Railway train
It was nice to be able to talk with Mike
and find out more about him, this being the first
time we had actually met in person, beyond the email
correspondence. Kavin and Mike had a good conversation
too, exchanging news and updates about the promotions
to be done in the coming days, and sharing bits of life
stories like how we had met our respective spouses :)
I found it really nice that despite being the managing
director of S2S in Japan, Mike was essentially a very
down-to-earth, humble guy who makes it a point to lead
his employees by example. In the course of our
conversation, I was quite touched too that Mike enquired
about my heart operation and how I was doing now. He'd
read about my experience on my blog. That was sweet of him.
So, we reached Osaka after about 3 hours on the bullet train.
It was fascinating to see how all the service staff on the train,
from the rubbish collectors to the food cart servers, would do a
bow and say 'Excuse me' to the passengers before they left the train compartment.
We checked into the LAForet hotel in Shin-Osaka at about 11 p.m
and I got to work, signing some 80 autographed cards that Uchida had
brought along. These cards were to be used the next
day at the Tower Records in-store.
The view from our hotel room
By the time we got to bed, it was close to 2 a.m
Sunday, 23rd September 2007
We checked out of the hotel at 12 p.m and travelled
to the Tower Records in Marubiru, Osaka (leaving
our luggage at the hotel).
It was nice to see the CD display at the store
and to sign a message on the display.
After viewing the store, we had lunch at a soba
noodle shop. I ordered a soba noodle with duck.
It was yummy and came with a bowl of fried rice
Posing outside the soba noodle store
Then we headed back to the Tower Records
store. We were given a 'green room' to rest
in before the in-store performance. The room
was essentially a radio studio that Tower Records
uses for its radio programmes.
Uchida, Corrinne, Mike and Kavin looking like a band in the green room.
Leaving my mark on the green room wall.
It's interesting to see that Tower Records is flourishing in Japan
whereas the stores in the U.S are no longer around.
The sound check and the subsequent performance
in the store went well.
Poster for the in-store performance
I sang 1) Beautiful Seed
2) Shelter- Cherry Blossom Edition 3) On The Side
of Me and 4) Little Superhero Girl.
Following this, I gave each fan who had lined up, an autographed card.
It was great to meet the Japanese fans. It was the
first time I had performed in Japan too, so that
was definitely a special moment for me.
After this, we headed back to the LaForet hotel to get
our bags, then set off for the train station.
While at the train station, we had dinner at a restaurant
that served Okonomiyaki ('as-you-wish' teppanyaki).
It was fascinating to see how the cooks made the Okonomiyaki.
I also had an iced Oolong tea. Yummy food and good company :)
Mike and Uchida helped to explain how the Okonomiyaki was made.
The menu for okonomiyaki
Chefs making Okonomiyaki
Uchida and I
Kavin and Mike
After dinner, we said bye to Mike who had to head back to Tokyo.
Then, Uchida, Kavin and I took the 7.55 p.m Shinkansen train
Some finds in the shops of the train station.
The Hanshin Tigers t-shirts and such
The Shinkansen, ie. bullet train
The trip was long. About 3 hours long. After arriving at Hakata,Fukuoka
and checking into the Hyatt Regency Fukuoka, Kavin and I went
walking around to take a look at the convenience stores that
were open. There were the sandwiches and instant noodles,
but I wanted something a bit more substantial for supper.
I remembered seeing a MOS burger near the train station,
and so we made our way there.
Unfortunately, the MOS burger store was already closed by the
time we got there at 11.15 p.m
Thankfully, there was a ramen shop there that stayed open
till 4 a.m in the morning. What's more, they had a machine
at the front of the shop with pictures of each food item and
the corresponding cost on buttons and one had only to slot
money into the machine, press the button of the food item
one wished to order, and the machine would spit out
an order ticket, a receipt and the exact change needed.
No language barrier kept us from supper that evening :)
We ordered a char siew ramen and a plate of gyoza.
The char siew ramen was delicious! Only later on did we
find out from Mike and Uchida, that Hakata Ramen is famous
for being good! Yummy. good stroke of luck.
Monday 24th September 2007
We woke up too late to take advantage
of the free continental breakfast, so it
was good that I had bought a hot dog bun
and a bottle of Kirin special milk tea
the day before and so I had that for breakfast.
Speaking of tea, I find it interesting how
I have to adapt my taste buds to take in a different type
of tea in each country I go to. In Singapore, it's
the nice hot cup of kopi-tiam style teh, which
I get from Yakun most of the time.
In the U.S, it's a cup of Darjeeling Extra Fancy
Kalimpong which I get from Peets. In Japan, it's
my bottle of special Kirin Milk Tea, brewed with
twice the amount of tea leaves so that it's a stronger
brew, and tastes almost like a sweeter, more milky
version of a Yakun tea, but cold and in a bottle.
I had a Hong Kong style milk tea once when
I was in chicago, and I was struck at the similarity
to the taste of the Singapore milk tea.
I have a theory on why it is so.
Hong Kong and Singapore are both former British colonies,
and so, black tea became a part of the culinary
landscape in both countries. But perhaps
because the whole leaf tea version of black
tea was not affordable to the local population,
they adapted the desire to have tea by
using the less expensive tea dust to make their
brew, and instead of fresh milk, which I assume
was more expensive and which spoiled faster, they
used evaporated and condensed milk instead.
Hence, the similarity in history, and evolution
of the local tea. Not sure if this version
is accurate, it's just my take on it :)
But I digress...
We meet up with Tochikubo from S2S and Yoko Yamane
my interpreter for the day. Uchida is there too.
We take two cabs into Tenjin City where we
are scheduled to have a radio interview at Love FM
with DJ Max on his morning show, appropriately titled
'Ohaiyo Gozai "Max" Ta', a play on his name 'Max'.
Being interviewed by DJ Max
Max is from France and I am fascinated by his ability
to switch seamlessly between Japanese and English.
In between interview segments, he tells me that he's
lived in Japan for the past 8 years and that his
command of Japanese is mainly from communicating with people.
I guess it really helps to be immersed in a culture
and society where one has to constantly be in touch
with the language one wishes to learn.
So the 'live' radio programme is fun to be on and I
am happy to share a little bit of singlish with
Max who asks about it. 'Let's go Makan lah!' he says
gleefully, immediately putting to use the Singlish
phrase for 'Let's go and eat!' I've shared with him.
After this, we take the subway to FM Fukuoka
and we catch lunch at a nearby restaurant beforehand.
It's a bank holiday on this Monday, and so not that many
restaurants are open, and we settle in for a set lunch
meal at a hotel restaurant.
I have the grilled mackerel which is delicious,
and I learn that Fukuoka is famous for its fresh
After lunch we head to FM Fukuoka. It's got
a classic radio station feel to it, and the
scent of cigarette smoke wafts throughout the
I am ushered into the radio recording studio to pre-record
3 interviews for broadcast later in the month.
I record segments for 'Live Gun', a programme
hosted by DJ Lue where the questions I have to answer
include one about what type of animal I'd want to be
if I were an animal and why? Answer : A koala because
they are cute and sleep all the time and it is nice
to be able to have the luxury of relaxing and sleeping
for those long stretches of time.
I also record a segment for a programme called 'Saturday
Morning EYE!' for DJ Ai Nakajima where one of the questions
asks how I get my morning started each day.
Answer : I have to have my Darjeeling Tea with milk
and sugar every morning. That helps to make my
morning feel complete.
Next up is another pre-recorded interview for the
'Smash Wave' programme for DJ Eiji where 'On The Side of Me'
will be on heavy rotation as a 'Power Play' song. Yay :)
Yoko in the meantime, helps to translate all my answers
After this, we travel to Tenjin FM to record a programme
for the 'Morning Wave' radio show broadcast on
This is followed by a live broadcast
show request called Freewave 'Park Side Cafe' where
I meet DJ Kaida and we have a segment where I pick 3 questions
for him to interview me on from his 'Park Side Cafe' interview
'menu', all in keeping with the 'cafe' theme of the programme.
I choose to talk about Travel and Food (Hainanese Chicken Rice).
I also find out that DJ Kaida and I were born one day apart
in the same year! His January 18th, mine, January 19th;
He plays 3 songs from the album, 'Shelter', 'Beautiful Seed'
and 'On The Side of Me'. and our interview is broadcast
simultaneously on 4 big TV screens outside the Solaria Mall
building. Some people also gather around outside the glass
windows of the studio to have a look and I was especially
moved to see a fan walking past, waving a copy of
my album and giving me a smile and a thumbs-up sign. :)
The view from outside the glass walls of the studio
Hey I'm on TV.
Yoko, DJ Kaida and I
Dj Kaida and I
After this, we travel backto FM Fukuoka via cab and I
have a 'live' radio interview with DJ's Buutchi and Fumi
for a programme called Super Radio Monster Raji-gon.
DJ Buutchi is welcoming and warm and also speaks
with an American-accented English. He has a super deep
voice whereas DJ Fumi has the high, girlish voice
of a young girl, reminiscent of those young teenagers
in Anime cartoons. It's an interesting contrast
and I wonder if, in general, Japanese radio listeners favour
the deep voices for their male DJs and high girlish
voices for the women DJs.
As part of the interview, I get to pick a question
from the pinball machine in a game called 'gatcha-gatcha'.
[I can't remember the question now though]
DJs Fumi and Buuchi with the gatcha machine and I
DJ Buutchi is quite complimentary on the album and
tells me that he likes it. Great :)
After this, we head to the Tower Records in Fukuoka
to give an in-store performance.
My name in Japanese! In red on the poster.
goes well and it's great to have Yoko there to help
translate between the fans and myself as I sign
autographs on the cds for the fans who are there.
I'm also joyful that the audience was attentive
and very focused during the performance. They really
listened and understood as I shared the stories of
my songs with them. It was great to see that despite
the apparent barrier of a different language,
the emotional, universal language of music spoke
through to them and they really got the meaning
of the songs.
Signing the display at the store
We had one more thing to do before the end of the day.
A radio interview at an outdoor radio station event
with DJ Toggy for a show called T.T Lounge at Cross FM.
The topic for discussion is 'marriage' and so I share
about how Kavin and I just spent our 4th wedding anniversary
on a plane, going from Singapore to Montreal, a full 36-hour
long anniversary, because of the time differences involved.
I also share about our wedding in Singapore and about how
I believed the ingredients for a good marriage include
a sense of humour and being able to argue together and
Yoko and I
After this, we bid Yoko the interpreter goodbye and leave
for the Hyatt to pick up our luggage from the hotel.
We then make our way to Fukuoka Airport.
We have dinner there at one of the restaurants in the
hotel and I get to try the famed Fukuoka Mentaiko (spicy
cod roe) and the Jidori (local chicken, cooked half raw)
The Mentaiko is delicious :)
After this, we browse through the shops at the airport,
mostly selling Mentaiko and famous cakes and sweets
and I ask Uchida why the Hello Kitty toy is wrapped in some
red stuffing. He replies that the toy red stuffing is
represent Mentaiko and that the Hello Kitty character
is essentially a 'Mentaiko' Kitty. I find it very cute and amusing!
Chick shaped cake
The Hawks baseball team merchandise. Can you spot the big Mentaiko Kitty?
In the meantime, Uchida and Tochikubo buy some gifts of cakes
for their colleages back in Tokyo, and they explain
that it is part of Japanese culture, that when one
goes away somewhere on holiday or vacation, one brings back a gift
for those who were not there.
Our flight to Haneda, Tokyo takes about one and a half hours
on the plane. We check into the Prince Shinagawa hotel
and as we bid goodnight to Uchida and Tochikubo,
they present us with a box of cakes from Fukuoka as
a gift and Uchida gives me a little paper bag
with the Mentaiko Kitty I had seen in Fukuoka. I am
very moved by their sweet gestures, and also touched
that Uchida had bought the Mentaiko Kitty for me.
So sweet of them :)
View from the hotel room window of the surrounding Shinagawa area