A Walk of Gratitude down Katong Road

There are certain places that we go to that will bring back memories, and often we don’t have to travel very far.

Just early this afternoon, despite a sweltering hot day, I took the opportunity to park the car at 112 Katong, to take a stroll to Katong Shopping Centre to visit the Optometrist, then walk back to 112 Katong. This short walk evoked plenty of memories and feelings.

It brought back memories just barely 4.5 years ago when I was a regular in this neighbourhood and used to take Photo-walks. Katong have gone through some changes in that short 4.5 years.

In April 2013 the tired looking Red House Bakery was undergoing major refurbishment…

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Now, it seems to have been restored its former glory,

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The glimpse I had of the shophouses from the overhead bridge of Roxy Square in 2013 were deserted, looking dreary and old..

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Now, these shophouses have been given a new lease of life and likely are occupied by new tenants;

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Seeing these changes take took place these 4.5 years, is very much like a metaphor to how things have changed for me since the day that I took those photos in April 2013. My state in life in 2013 was rather similar to these old and tired buildings.

Taking this walk down Katong Road, I found my heart bursting with gratitude to God, as I knew that I have so much to be grateful to the Lord for. Life today is drastically different from my life in 2013 or anything before 2015 for that matter.

Life then in 2013 was a struggle, our family have sold our first home the year before and had to stay in alternative arrangements, which we had to call home for that season. It was hard to lose most of what we own. In retrospect, we needed to experience losing almost all that we own, to come to a point of trusting God wholeheartedly, and letting Him fully take over our lives and our will.

Spending these time in the ‘pit’ was necessary as it has been God’s training ground for me. What I chose to focus in the ‘pit’ helped to bring the breakthrough. I chose to minimise complaining and worship Him instead, to reflect, ‘What does God want me to learn out of this?’

Seeking God first and the Kingdom of God was pivotal during this time, as it is only through putting Him above all these things (providence, faith, security), these things will be added to me. It was a difficult choice but I decided that I needed to surrender all to Him fully, everything will be His will and none of mine. He can do what He want with me, just take care of my family. I really did not have any more expectations during those difficult times.

God really went out of His way to prove to me even in my doubt and unbelief, He will be faithful and He is a good God.

God knew the deep desires of my heart, as He has taken care of everything in my life. It is only when we come to a point of losing everything in our lives, before He is able to restore it fully for us. And when He does, it will be above and beyond what we can ask and think of!

September 2015, it has been the start of the turnaround for my family. And my family is totally bowled over by His great love and faithfulness time and time again. We have been staying in a rented home these past 2 years, and it has been a comfortable and peaceful sanctuary for the family.

Prophetically, 2017 in the Hebrew calendar year of 5777, is the year of Jubilee when all inheritances are returned and people are set free from everything which has bound them. Indeed, I can attest to this, we may have lost our home in 2012, but in mid 2017, we have officially bought a new place we can call our home! Something that I never dared to dream of since 2012, but only made possible by God.

2017 is indeed a year of restoration for my family.  On a personal note, I am reminded and restored to my calling for intercession as well.

What I have learnt during difficult times of my life, it is important to seek Him, stay in His presence daily, stay obedient to Him, stay humble always, and always chose to do the things that honour Him. Seek and Focus on His Kingdom and He will surely take care of all things for us. He is a good and loving Father, who like to give good gifts to His Children. If He cares for the birds and flowers, how much more will He care for us!

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So naturally, after sharing this happy milestone on this blog, I will be starting a new series in the next couple of months on the topic of Home Renovation and decorating my new home 🏠

And definitely more write-ups on Spiritual Walk and Faith in the coming days, as the Holy Spirit leads!

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Exploring Tokyo my way; Handmade shopping, Kawaii and Pet Merchandise

Out of the 9 days in Japan, 5 days were spent in Tokyo. In hb’s words, “The Queen dictated where we went, shopping, craft stuff, Wawa (Chihuahuahua) stuff, cute stuff…” While he still got to pick what he wanted to eat for some of our meals 😝

Shopping was centred in the vicinity that we were staying in; Shinjuku. Takashimaya, Lumine and Tokyo Hands were about a 15 min walk from the Hotel. Japanese Fashion wasn’t something I was interested in, however I was more keen on their handmade culture of accessories, and there were number of pop up shops for handmade accessories that were peppered across in the various departmental stores that we visited.

Okadaya Shibuya was the other store worth visiting, if you are like me, love handmades and are looking for fabric notions like buttons, yarn, ribbons, embroidery patches, accessories findings. We depended on Google Maps to find our way around, especially for the Okadaya store in Shinjuku that was located in an obscure hidden alley.

While Lumine the other departmental store that is trendy and carries merchandise that the other departmental stores don’t for the younger set. In Lumine 2, there is Kiwa Products which is a specialty store selling jewellery making supplies. It was at this place where I stumbled onto a made-in-Japan raw material that I am still working on to create accessories with it.

A month ago, I read a news article that mentioned that Lumine will be opening a branch in Singapore. I think it will be interesting to see what merchandise they are planning to bring here.

There were many other places we wanted to explore like Ginza and Shibuya, but we only managed a couple of hours to check out Harajuku, had some Ramen for lunch, and walked on the world’s most crowded junction; Shibuya Crossing, and chanced upon an artsy hipster street in Shibuya trying to navigate walking from one place to another.

I was thrilled when we stumbled upon Character Street in Tokyo Station when we made our way there to take the Shikansen to Kyoto. When in Japan, cutesy characters memorabilia is something that one cannot miss out. From Hello Kitty, Studio Ghlibi, Rilakkuma, Doraemon to Pokemon Memorabilia.

 

Dog Culture

In Japan, there are likely more pets than children. With the large variety of merchandise available for dogs in Japan, even with dog clothes being more expensive than some children clothing, it’s worthwhile for any dog owner to take the time to visit these shops.

 

I have to confess that I never planned in dressing up dogs until I saw how adorable the Japanese and Korean small dogs look in clothing 😬. But I caved in and bought a couple of summer tees and officially after this trip to Tokyo, I am a convert.

JapcostumeBibi and Tess in their costumes from Tokyo

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A Day in Arashimaya, Kyoto

Arashimaya is in the west of Kyoto, located at the the base of Arashimaya Mountains (Storm Mountains). During Autumn the Maple trees on Mount Arashi will display a glorious burst colours of yellow, red and greens.

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We chose our 2 day Ryokan accommodation in Arashimaya as it was just 5-10 minutes away from the Main Street in Arashimya, and we planned to see the sights of the Arashimaya Bamboo Groove and visit the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, the Tenryu-Ji Temple.

Despite walking through the Bamboo Forest once on the first day, we took a 30 minutes ride on the Rickshaw on our 2nd day which went along Main Street Arashiyama and back to the Bamboo Forest.

Sagano Bamboo Forest

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The Bamboo is the fastest growing grass (it is not categorised as a fruit or tree but as grass!) and can grow up to one meter a day and due to its sturdy root structure and being a strong plant, it is a symbol of prosperity in Japan. It is also a symbol of purity and innocence in the Japanese culture. 

The Sagano Bamboo Forest has an interesting feature that comes from the sound which the wind makes when it blows amongst the bamboo. Also, the railings at the side of the path in the Bamboo Forest is made out of old, dry parts of the bamboo.  

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The bamboo is featured in one of the most well-loved tales in Japan, from the oldest narrative in Kana Script, “The Tale of the Bamboo cutter” or “Kaguya-hime” (The Princess Kaguya). K and I watched the Studio Ghibli version when we were back to Singapore, the folklore was depicted so beautifully (but not so good ending) in the animated watercolored art. 

Tenryu-ji Shrine 

Despite having little interest in visiting Japanese Shrines, a trip to Kyoto isn’t complete without visiting a Shrine. Naturally we went for the key shrine attraction in Arashimaya, the Tenryu-ji Shrine; one of the oldest Zen shrines in Japan. It has manicured gardens and a nice view of Mount Arashi. 

Tenryu-ji Shrine is a registered World Heritage site, which was founded in 1339. The gardens in Tenryu-ji Shrine has one of the best borrowed scenery or otherwise known as ‘shakkei’, a concept of incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden. 

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With a Zen Shrine, there will be a rock garden which include a sandy ground with raked sand, with its neat and uniformed lines on the ground. Despite it looking aesthetically pleasing, the true purpose in raking sand in Zen Buddhism is to train the thoughts, which is a form of moving meditation for the monks. 

The Tanuki

Walking out of the gardens of Tenryu-ji, I spotted a Tanuki, a raccoon dog. Statues of Tanuki are often placed outside the front door of homes, food establishments and shops. 

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The Tanuki of ancient Japanese Folklore is a toothy, mischievous fella, who carries a walking stick, wears a straw hat, and has a bottle of sake. This statue is intended to encourage customers to be free-spending like the Tanuki, to eat and drink and not to be stingy with money 😁 

The best known feature of this Tanuki is his enormous moneybags (translated as testicles 😝). In some statues, it is so oversized that he carries it over his shoulder like a sack, his kinbukuro is a symbolism of ‘increasing prosperity’ or ‘increasing luck’ for homes. The Tanuki was also featured in another Studio Ghlibi animation; Ponpoko, where there was a scene in the animation with the elder Tanuki addressing younger members of the tribe seated in front of him. He made a mat big enough (with his testicles) for all of them to sit on, but when he retracts it, they tumbled over! 

Once we noticed and understand what role does the Tanuki statues play in Japanese culture, we started spotting them in many places in Kyoto and Tokyo.

Apart from the shopping, eating and sightseeing in Japan, there is really so much in Japanese culture, myth and pop culture that is so intriguing to learn. Having observed some of these intricacies from our trips, really make the trip much more interesting.  

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