06 April 2014

Romeo on Ice

I've never been into sports. Heck, I even used to cut PE all the time back in elem. I'd rather read books in the library (bookworm alert!) than do lay-ups in the hot sweltering heat. No, thank you. But every now and then, something sparks my interest. For instance, I got interested in volleyball because of the FIVB World Grand Prix, taekwondo because of Japoy (HS crush lol), UAAP basketball because of the Blue Eagles (sige, Fighting Maroons na rin :p), football because of the Azkals, and now figure skating because of Michael Christian Martinez. As the lone representative of the Philippines in the Sochi Winter Olympics, who wouldn't be interested in him? A figure skater from a tropical country where the closest thing to snow is probably in the form of halo-halo. I instantly admired his determination and courage to pursue such a sport. At such a young age too! But this post is not about MCM. Haha
Princes on Ice
L-R: Patrick Chan, Yuzuru Hanyu, Daisuke Takahashi, Javier Fernandez
Before the men's singles SP event last February 13th, Erin and I took to Google to scout the competition. We googled and watched videos of the current male top skaters such as Patrick Chan, Yuzuru Hanyu, Daisuke Takahashi and Javier Fernandez. We were instantly in awe (after getting over the frilly costumes and unusual music choices) at their performances. Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez were easily my favorites - Yuzuru because of his smooth skating and his ability to execute one jump after another without much effort, and Javier because of his Hispanic looks and manly moves. I knew right then that MCM needs to up his game to get on their level.
MCM proudly holding up his Philippines jacket at the kiss and cry.
So I stayed up late and tuned in just in time to catch MCM's SP. I've never watched a figure skating competition before so I was instantly mesmerized by the skaters' dedication to their programs and passion for the sport. As much as I wanted MCM to place well, I didn't want the other skaters to fall. My heart broke each time a skater falls on the ice (even going as far as blaming Sochi for the lackluster ice lol) and I cheered them on every time they get back up. I even shared their feelings of either triumph or despair at the kiss and cry. I was surprised at how much an FS competition virgin like myself was already so invested in the sport! Haha Ang drama e!
Yuzuru Hanyu at the Flower Ceremony.
As much as I wanted to catch Yuzu's, Javi's and PChan's (yes, we call them by nicknames now haha) performances, my eyelids just couldn't hold up any longer by 1 AM! I did the same thing the following night but gave up again around the same time. Darn you, 4-hour time difference! But thank God, TV5 aired a replay of the FS event last February 16th. I was giddy to finally see Javi perform but got heartbroken upon realizing he got 0 points for a jump because of a schoolboy mistake. Apparently, you can't perform the same jump twice and he under-rotated one of his quads to a triple so yeah, one jump got 0 points. When it was Yuzu's turn, I couldn't help but snicker a little at his costume. He looks so delicate - almost like a girl! For someone skating to Nino Rota's Romeo and Juliet, he totally looks more like the Juliet part. But once he started skating, I couldn't take my eyes off him. His movements came naturally, it's almost as if it didn't take any effort on his part at all. So I was really surprised when he fell on his first quad! </3 But he stood right up as if nothing happened and carried on with his program. Boy, his jumps were spectacular. Maybe it's his lean physique that enables him to jump beautifully across the ice. Nevertheless, it was a performance worthy of a gold medal even if he fell twice.
One of the most creative memes I have ever seen. Haha I especially love how Pooh-san is in there too!
As expected, the internet responded in the form of gifs and memes after Yuzu won the gold medal. The more I looked/laughed at them, the more I got fascinated with the kid. So I did the next step: google him. After reading his back story, I couldn't help but admire him even more - his courage in believing and pursuing his dream is amazing. Not to mention, his unbelievable love for his hometown, Sendai, which was terribly hit by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The next day, this was obviously inevitable...
Initial stages of fangirling. :))
Before you know it, I was browsing through photos in every social media site you can think of, reading articles and interviews, and watching videos on Youtube. But it's not his super adorable face or obsession with Pooh-san that made me a fan. It's the way he skates his heart out on the rink that not many skaters can do. Sure, the jumps are my favorite part of FS and a lot of skaters can jump beautifully as well but only a few skaters can make you feel something when they skate. And Yuzu does just that (to be fair, Yuna and Mao too). I watched most (if not all) of his programs and even ranked Romeo and Juliet 1.0, Parisienne Walkways and Hana ni Nare as my top 3 favorite programs. I watched interviews and documenteries, some of which didn't even have subtitles or translations. Haha It brought me back to my Johnny's Jr fangirling phase where I used to watch Shokura regularly even if I couldn't understand a thing. :)) A Yuzu-filled day turned into a Yuzu week then a Yuzu month and yup, it's still going! Erin, Mabel and I even created a Yuzu (Love hahaha) group in Line and Skype to regularly update each other about FS but mainly Yuzu stuff. Hahaha #FFFs

And as if the universe wanted to take my fangirling up a notch, I happen to be flying to Japan later in the afternoon. This was totally coincidental, okay, as this trip was a year in the making so yeah why am I even explaining myself. #defensive =))))))) And if that wasn't enough, I will be watching Stars on Ice Japan on the 13th. How lucky could I get?? But luck won't get you anywhere if you don't work hard for what you want. I already blogged about how difficult it was to get tickets but yay my fangirling woes finally disappeared last week when I received these:
Best news ever!
So yeah, I can't wait to get to Japan and finally see my Romeo on ice! Lol Too bad, my fangirling buddies won't be coming with me. :( But I promise to bring back as much Yuzu/FS omiyage as I can because that's what #FFFs do. Hihi

25 March 2014


Nee-chan and I have been planning our Japan trip for the longest time. But it was only after we got our visas (multi yay!) last February 17th that we started finalizing all the details of our trip. As usual, Nee-chan's in charge of the itinerary (sights to see, things to do, how to get where, etc.) while I'm in charge of reserving everything that can be done online - accommodation (5 different hotels in 5 different cities!), bus tickets, attraction tickets, etc. Of course, I'm also responsible for anything that has to do with food (what/where to eat, what omiyage to buy, etc). And Karly? He's responsible for taking pictures, reading maps, and carrying our daily supplies in a backpack. Haha Team work at its finest, eh?
I don't think I've ever seen an Olympic gold medalist as happy as him!
Coincidentally, February 17th also marks the day I started researching Yuzuru Hanyu ((羽生 結弦), the Japanese Olympic gold medalist for Men's Singles Figure Skating event. After watching his performances and learning he's from Sendai, I just had to google him. His back story touched me and I admired the kid even more. But! That's for another post. Hahahaha So basically my week turned into a Yuzu week (okay, it has now turned into a Yuzu month lol) and I ended up watching some more of his performances including ice shows he participated in such as The Ice and Stars on Ice. I could only wish to see these shows someday. And because I was on a Yuzu high, I managed to accomplish all the online reservations come Februray 24th so we're basically all set for our Japan trip.
However, the universe begs to differ! Because the very next day, I found out that Stars on Ice Japan 2014 will be held in April instead of the usual summer dates. WHAT!!!! Not to mention, the Tokyo dates also happen to fall on the same dates we're traveling to/arriving in Tokyo! MEANT. TO. BE. *cries happy tears* Now the only problem is how to convince Daddy and Karly to watch the show with us as tickets don't come cheap. Nee-chan is practically a sure deal since she supports all my crazies like a true sister would. Hihi But yeah, our itinerary would have to be adjusted to make way for Stars on Ice which means more work for Nee-chan. Oopsies.

Even though I was ecstatic as hell, I didn't rush to buy tickets because the line up of skaters is yet to be announced and it will depend on the skaters' availability. Something tells me though that Yuzu's gonna be there. And my ever supportive friend, Erin, suggested I check out ISU's event schedule. If there's no major competition in April, then Yuzu will most probably be there. Still, I decided to wait it out but I was already thinking of purchasing either the ¥7,000 or ¥9,000 tickets. *ouch*
Feeling Stars on Ice!
Coincidentally, February 25th also happens to be the day us converted FS fans went to SM Megamall's newly renovated Ice Skating Rink to catch Michael Christian Martinez (MCM) in action. Funny how we've been planning to try out the rink way before the Winter Olympics started but it only took MCM for our skating sesh to finally happen. It's been years (almost a decade?) since I've last skated and ahh it feels so good to be back on the ice! Indeed, there are skills you never forget - like biking and skating.
Clockwise from top left: Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, Kanako Murakami, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir.
February 27th. The first batch of skaters was announced which included Sochi olympians Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, Kanako Murakami, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The feeling that Yuzu will soon be part of the line up only became stronger so I read up on how to purchase tickets. Problem #1: I need to sign up for the ticketing site (I chose Rakuten) and it's in Japanese. Thank God for Google Translate but there's also Problem #2: The site requires that I type in my name in kana (Japanese writing system - either Hiragana or Katakana). Again, the internet helped me out on this as I signed up as モピア サラ using an online Japanese keyboard. Finally, Problem #3: Sure, tickets can be bought online through credit card but there are only two options for claiming tickets - through 7-11's ticketing machine or home delivery. Patay. I immediately thought of asking a favor from our friends in Japan but unfortunately, they will all be home for summer. I even asked Szet who will be in Japan in March (she comes back this week actually) if she could buy tickets for me but that might be too late. So I did the most obvious, touristy and kapal thing to do - I emailed our Shinjuku hotel and asked them if I could use their address for ticket delivery. Thankfully, the kind City Hotel Lonestar staff were accommodating enough to grant my request. Huhuhu I'll make sure to bring them dried mangoes as a token of gratitude!
Tickets are selling like taiyaki**!
But my sorrows just seem to never end. Problem #4: As I checked the available seats, 4 sections were already sold out - the 3 cheapest sections and the most expensive one! WHAT. Japanese fans sure are dedicated. :(( So now the cheapest available seats were priced at ¥13,000 (roughly P6,000). I thought about it hard. I do want to see Yuzu but the ticket is almost the same price as the Section A ticket I plan to buy if ever I watch Wicked for the second time. In the end, I chose Stars on Ice over Wicked. Yes, I want it that much! And because tickets were expensive, I had a feeling Karly wouldn't want to splurge on them so I convinced him to just skip the show with Dad (whom I know might just fall asleep during the show :p) and roam the streets of Harajuku/Shibuya while Nee-chan and I watch the show. When he agreed, I went ahead and bought our tickets. There's no going back now. All that's left to do is pray to God that Yuzu will soon be part of the line up and that our tickets get delivered to the hotel. Yup, I'm relying both on God's and man's goodness to make my dreams of seeing Yuzu come true. :)

Last Wednesday (March 5th), the second batch of skaters was posted and I was shaking (and praying!) as I waited for the site to load. Like an answered prayer, this was the first thing that greeted me:
AAAHH YUZURUUUU~!!! I wanted to cry right then and there but I still checked the Tokyo page just to be sure. And there it was! *cue happy tears* I was only wishing and praying for a chance to see Yuzu - kahit si Yuzu lang. But OMG there's Javi and PChan too! AAAAAHHH うれしい~!!! GOD IS SO GOOD! I couldn't help but cry tears of joy and relief as it wasn't easy for non-Japanese to get tickets to SOI. But as you can see, it's not impossible. If you want it bad enough, you'll find ways to get it. Still, print-at-home tickets would've been nice. Haha
Complete Stars on Ice Japan 2014 cast.
Good thing, I went with my intuition and bought tickets right after the first batch was announced because when I tried checking the ticketing sites, all of them went down with the announcement of the second batch. :O As expected, the demand increased because of the newly added skaters - they even added another date to the Tokyo show. Now my excitement for our Japan trip just doubled - tripled even. And I can't believe I'll be seeing Yuzu in a couple of weeks! Huhu Thank you po, Lord!!! *cries even more happy tears*

* うれしい (ureshii) - means 'happy' in Japanese; used as an expression for happiness (i.e. "I'm so happy!").
** Taiyaki - Japanese fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste, custard, etc.

10 February 2014

Japan 2013: Mata ne!*

On every trip I take, I make it a point to save the best meals on the last day so I can have a good memory to hold on to when I go back home. So for our last dinner, we headed to Aqua City in search for a yakiniku restaurant. We've been craving yakiniku since we landed in KIX but our sked is always hectic so we kept putting if off.
Food is always a serious business.
Since Ariel is a vegetarian, he decided to have more tamago sushi at the nearby food court while we headed to Heijouen and got down to business. Heijouen serves the best of both worlds where Korean and Japanese barbecue meet - or should I say meat? Hihi

As usual, Nee-chan and I were in charge of picking out the food. It was pretty tough looking at all the yummy-looking choices but it's a job we enjoy doing. Just look at our serious faces! Haha
Melt in your mouth goodness.
We settled for their best-selling platters where you can sample their best-selling cuts. And can I just say, BEST YAKINIKU EVER! Sure, it's a bit pricey (at least for Pinoy standards) but melt-in-your-mouth goodness don't come cheap. I promise you, it's so worth it! It was actually pretty sulit. We were reluctant to order rice since we want to savor the meat but Pinoys will always be Pinoys. We just can't live without rice, eh?
Happy tummies!
We were all stuffed by the end of our meal. And good thing we were because we sure needed energy for the upcoming (mis)adventure we're about to experience. Oh I forgot to mention that the booths in Heijoen have wooden blinds to separate the customers so you can have all the privacy you want while enjoying your meal.
After billing out, we met up with Ariel and walked back to the station. Remember how full we were? Well, Dad was so full, he had to stop for a bathroom break which made us miss the train by just a couple of minutes! And now we're pressed for time as we have to wait for the next train to arrive.