Tomorrow was and is a particle of dust in the symphonic orchestra of cosmic life. And for certain individuals, there’s a volitional understanding that the sole source of trust in life rests in each breath that they’re able to take, because for them, they’ve lost a reason to live — or rather, the desire to create for themselves une raison d’être. We might as well count them dead. There are millions of them walking this earth — ghosts among sanguine creatures.

Many of us are cowards to a certain extent. There are cowards who, in their crippling fear of nothingness or of ceasing to exist, remain stagnant. Then there are cowards who, after having jumped off the cliff and reached a temporary stage of imminent death, lack the will to go on — as if midway someone had placed brakes on their acts of rebellion against what’s seemingly life, but is in reality a rebellion against death itself.

It’s the latter coward for whom I hold the deepest respect, for despite their own self-imposed deaths, these are courageous heroes who’ve experienced the depths of life in all its colourful debris. These are the individuals who are aware of the secret of our cosmic existence: that life and death are two sides of the same coin. Everything else is folly.

Fukuoka, Japan: Breakfast with Moomin

imageCanal City was an ideal place to go for mouth-watering ramen. It houses Ichiran Ramen, a Japanese ramen chain originating in Fukuoka, which is considered to be one of the best shops to eat tonkotsu ramen in Japan.

After buying our tickets at the machine outside the shop, Tweety and I walked in and noted the individual seating booths, with each station accompanied by a curtain that separated the customer from the staff. I loved the idea of having minimal to no interaction with staff, customers, and even my fellow friend. Simply being in the moment with my food, in silence, was a very pleasant eating experience. In fact, for an introvert like myself, it would’ve constituted my ideal eating venue.

imageOnce seated, I handed my ticket to the staff member — whose face was anonymous — and then proceeded to filling out a form where I was asked to check off how I preferred my dish: from mild to spicy, from a pinch of garlic gloves to whole ones, and from soft to firm noodles. I could also save some broth for a second serving of noodles if I was still hungry. I was full of course, but I felt unbelievably satisfied — it was one of the most delicious dishes I had eaten in Japan.

After having ramen for lunch, we walked on and stumbled upon the Moomin Bakery & Cafe. THE MOOOOMIN CAFE! I wish words could do my feelings justice because when I saw it that day, I died; rainbows, stars, and unicorns returned and began circling my head. I mean, look at the big snout of this hippo family — so friggin’ cute I couldn’t deal with my emotions.

I had discovered the cafe a few years ago here on WordPress when I saw a photo of a lovely young woman sitting with a fluffy plush. “I’ve got to go there!” I thought to myself excitedly. Whether the cafe was created to accompany lonely souls, those seeking company when dining alone, or just for the sake of creativity and ingenuity, I loved it regardless — I thought it was darn adorable. It’s not like I don’t dine with my stuffed animals at home anyway, so this idea wasn’t new to me. Move along, friends, move along…

That day, we had already had lunch, so while Tweety was ordering ice cream, I sat on the bench outside the jam-packed cafe and happily observed the commotion inside. Adamant about dining with Moomin, we then made a pact to return the following morning for breakfast. (Bless her heart for putting up with my wild obsession with Moomin.) The food was subpar, but who are we kidding? I came here for the fluffy experience — and a fluffy experience it was.

Fukuoka, Japan: The real Tweety Bird


Shops selling bento boxes are readily available in train stations in Japan, because there, it’s tradition for passengers to buy a bento to-go for their train journeys, which I thought was really stinkin’ cute. Since it was my final Shinkansen ride back to Fukuoka — a five to six-hour journey, roughly — I bought a bento box for the ultimate Japanese bullet train experience. And boy, was it a cutesy experience, eating from a bento while observing the fine sceneries and dreaming away.


Being back in Fukuoka felt reassuring; I knew that I’d be returning to Phnom Penh soon. But more importantly, I missed Fukuoka, and came to appreciate its low key vibe only after returning from Tokyo. I was also glad to be back at the hostel — back to beginnings, as they say — and to see familiar friendly faces. Except that when I returned to my old room this time, a new roommate was awaiting me, and her name was Tweety.

That’s one of the best things about hostels: you meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Tweety was from Hong Kong and when I learned that that was her name given to her by her father, I died inside because it was too darn cute. “Your dad must have the best sense of humour,” I laughed. Needless to say, we got on well, as if we’d been friends for years. And for what little time we had left in Japan, we spent it together.

Yanagibashi Fish Market

Yanagibashi Fish Market

Seafood cakes

Seafood cakes

<img class="wp-image-5786 size-large" src="https://toumemoir.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/image15.jpeg?w=620" alt="Dango, sweet dumpling made from rice flour (similar to mochi) often enjoyed with green tea” width=”620″ height=”415″> Dango, sweet dumpling made from rice flour (similar to mochi) often enjoyed with green tea

The day that we explored the vicinity of the Yanagibashi Fish Market could’ve been said to be the day I went to dango heaven — I stumbled upon this delicious sweet everywhere I went! I could eat dango all day every day, and Tweety can attest to it, because that’s precisely what had happened.

Hiyoko green tea sweets

Hiyoko green tea sweets

Tweety invited me into a sweets shop that sold these adorable baby chick green tea desserts, as she wanted to purchase them for her brother who’s a big fan of them. I saw them quite often in souvenir shops at the airport and in train stations as well as in department stores, and since I was curious and loved green tea desserts myself, I decided to buy them for a treat for my mother. She absolutely loved them!

Ideal field trip? A Japanese supermarket. Here's our basket of snacks

Ideal field trip? A Japanese supermarket. Here’s our basket of snacks

What took up space in my luggage...

What took up space in my luggage…

Tokyo, Japan: Wakaba not Wakabi


On my last day in Tokyo, there was a final task that I was set to accomplish: eat taiyaki, a classic Japanese sweet snack in the form of a fish-shaped cake filled with azuki red bean paste. I tried googling some of the best authentic spots to eat it in Tokyo, and decided to venture to the one nearest to me: Taiyaki Wakaba.

Wakaba, situated about a 10-minute walk from Yotsuya Station, is apparently one of the oldest and most popular taiyaki establishments in Tokyo. Go figure, when I asked strangers for directions, they all smiled enthusiastically and were eager to show me the way. “This place must be really good to have locals know its whereabouts upon hearing its name,” I thought to myself excitedly.

Rain was pouring heavily during my adventure to find this renowned gem, but that made the journey ever more exciting. Having warm out-of-the-oven taiyaki on a rainy morning constituted my ideal start to the day. And my ideal morning it was, for when I arrived at the shop, it was nice and empty and quiet — just how I like it. After all, it was still early in the morning and I was the first one there.


The lady at the counter was lovely; upon entering, I was greeted with a warm smile and friendly questions about my country of origin. In turn, I asked her about the history of the shop. After a brief and pleasant exchange, I ordered a taiyaki to-stay, found a comfortable spot in the corner, poured myself some green tea (complimentary of the shop), and then proceeded to spending the next few minutes in taiyaki heaven.


After having tried the original taiyaki, I was bent on trying a progressive version of it: the taiyaki croissant, which I came across at the Ameyoko Market. This version had the same red bean filling as the original, but the pastry was a croissant — an exquisite hybrid!

Takeshita Street in Harajuku District

Takeshita Street in Harajuku Districtimage

I knew I wouldn’t be hibernating in Harajuku for long given the monstrous crowds and my lack of interest in shopping in general (there, I said it), but it was a treat to give it a visit nonetheless — very lively and colourful.

Harajuku, as is often depicted in the tickles and pickles of the media and world of Japanese pop culture, is a district in Shibuya, Tokyo bustling with fashion boutiques, restaurants and cafes, and gift shops. It’s no secret that it’s a joint widely frequented by the young and hip generation with a flair for all-things fashion — and with that comes all-things quirky and unique.

First experience eating sushi at a stand-up booth

Tokyo, Japan: Shibuya dance


A morning stroll along the Meguro River, where cherry blossoms abound in the springtime.

Hooray for having crossed the Shibuya Crossing and doing a little bit of the Shibuya dance! Although I didn’t get to snap a photo of the infamous crossing, I did take some photos of it from different angles. Frankly, I feared that if I stopped I’d be knocked down like a bowling pin.


It was a ritual for me to unwind at Ueno Park every evening before heading home. One evening, I walked far and wide in the vicinity of the park in search of an ice cream cone, where I later learned that this park was far more gigantic than I had imagined. This search led me to a little amusement park where the perfect cone awaited me: a cherry blossom vanilla swirl! But before getting one, I was prompted to a nearby vending machine to purchase a ticket first — a rather fun process.

The evening was young, the air was warm, and kids were running to and fro; and there I was, sitting on a bench with an ice cream cone in hand, on cloud 9. “I feel like a pedophile watching kids from a distance,” I laughed to myself. But then again, what’s a little girl of 5’0 in a polkadot dress with an ice cream cone in hand gonna do, really? Needless to say, it was a lovely night; I felt like a kid all over again at the amusement part. And the best part? I was alone.


Wrapping up my evening at the Ueno Toshogu Shrine. The walk through the gateway was surreal; I felt transported to ancient times.