I miss Japan, which is not news to anyone who reads this blog. But when I could smell Japan on the potato gems I ordered from Leonard’s House of Love, the local pub in my neighbourhood, I realized that my body ━ my olfactory memory ━ miss Japan too. So much so that it has started tracing the smell of Japan, my Japan, all the way from here. 8,191.28 km away.
I catch the smell of Japan from the freshly made coffee Fafa put on my bedside table. From the tempura soba, we drive 15mins to have during lunch hour. From the bubble tea face mask I slather myself with every Thursday night. From the matcha powder, I resort to drink when I still need a mid-afternoon boost after two cups of coffee. From Fafa’s Forest perfume and his SKII products that I occasionally use without asking his permission first.
Logically I know it’s best to curb this obsession before it gets more out of hand, but all I want to do is bring more Japan into my life until I can travel some eight thousands kilometre away to be reunited with it.
There are only a handful of things in life that I am more obsessed with compared to tarot. One of it is culture (check out my other blog: KultureKween).
Eventually, researching the interconnection between traditions and tarot, which started as a curiosity, grew into an obsession and has now turned into a life goal.
I also must admit that I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours researching tarot decks with the two cultures that I associate the most with, Indonesian and Indian.
Though there are more than a few Indian culture themed tarot decks out there, I didn’t find any that I liked nor could relate to as of now.
As for the Indonesian themed tarot deck, first of all, I was surprised that it existed to begin with. It’s called Tarot of Nusantara but it didn’t call out to me either. Instead, I found some other culture themed decks that I absolutely adore. Here they are, sorted by my liking from top to bottom*.
With rich, vibrant art and a keen understanding of traditional tarot archetypes, illustrator Yoshi Yoshitani infuses Tarot of the Divine with worldly insight and an intriguing selection of fables and folktales from cultures across the globe. With fables from more than forty countries, this spiritual journey is a worldly experience like no other.
This is a dream deck for a culture-geek such as myself. That combined with the price and zero shipping fee made it too easy for me to click pre-order sometime last year. I am still waiting patiently for it to arrive at my doorstep.
There are plenty of Japanese culture themed tarot decks in the market. From the traditional art of Ukiye to the pop-culture Manga deck but none of it spoke to me as much as Yokai Yochi did. The deck portrays ghosts, folklore, and traditional Japanese artwork. This is the second time I have mentioned this deck on my tarot deck list. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and order it.
The Gentle Tarot is an indigenous-made, hand-drawn tarot deck filled with imagery influenced by life in remote Alaska. Mariza, the artist behind Mari in the Sky and The Gentle Tarot deck, is a nature-inspired illustrator, grew with ceremony and daily rituals that connect us with the elements, songs that ancestors sang with words and sounds that speak to this connection. She is inspired to share the love, honor, and respect that the planet is due.
Best part: 10% of all proceeds from the deck sale are donated to ocean and climate change research.
I mentioned above that I couldn’t relate much with the Indian tarot decks out there, but then I could relate so much to some of the cards from The Delta Enduring Tarot deck.
It’s an illustrated tarot deck centering on the natural beauty and struggles of life in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta Enduring Tarot pays tribute to these ebbs and flows, and to the lives of those that continue to make the deep south a more verdant, just, and enduring landscape–despite the storm of oppression always on the horizon. Egan, the artist, is an illustrator born and raised in the arms of the Mississippi Delta. They practice medicine and the esoteric arts of magic, with a predilection for the healing of communal ritual.
This deck has been sold-out, therefore very hard to find. I am not sure whether it will ever be reproduced but I surely hope so.
Celebrating the complex American Rootwork tradition, The Hoodoo Tarot integrates esoteric and botanical knowledge from Hoodoo with the divination system of the tarot. The cards features full-color paintings by magical-realist artist Katelan Foisy and elegantly interprets the classical tarot imagery through depictions of legendary rootworkers past and present as well as important Hoodoo symbolism. In the accompanying guidebook, Tayannah Lee McQuillar provides a history of Hoodoo and its complex heritage, including its roots in multiple African and Indigenous American ethnic groups as well as its European influences.
I almost got this deck a few times. I am into Nordic culture and lifestyle and it’s pretty affordable (it’s the cheapest deck on this list), but knowing the majority of the deck (all the minor arcana cards) is not illustrated left a lot to be desired.
The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.
The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.
The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.
Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.
The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.
The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.
The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.
The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.
The day I got a salary hike.
The day I got approval to move to Australia.
The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.
The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.
The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.
The day I bought my first MacBook.
The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.
The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.
The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.
The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.
My first snowfall day.
The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.
The weekend in Uluru.
The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.
The time with LOL memories.
Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.
The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.
Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.
The nights I sat on the beach.
The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.
The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.
The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.
My days in Singapore.
First dates. Second dates.
The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.
My post-grad days.
My wedding days.
The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.
The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.
The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.
The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.
The day I set up my blogs excitedly.
My last working day in Singapore.
Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.
I miss Japan terribly. I have written about before. But the yearning for the land of the rising sun kept coming back, each time stronger than ever, when I can’t do anything about it. Yet.
I miss holding the sticky seaweed part of the onigiri before putting it into my mouth. I miss standing in front of the shrine, feeling both insignificant and blessed at the same time.
I miss hunting for a winter jacket in Harajuku because the one I brought wasn’t cool, thick, thin, long or basic enough.
I miss the back and forth bowing. I miss hunting interesting food and unique skin-care in the supermarket. I even miss the multi-purpose hotel spray.
And oh, don’t even let me start with the train! I miss the train, the train station and the long train rides.
I miss the familiar and tantalizing smell of coffee around the Good Day coffee shop on top of the Oshiage train station. I miss the calming voice in the speaker on the elevator, train and train station.
I even miss the tet..tet..tet.. sounding traffic light.
I miss how happy I am once I reach Japan. I miss the excitement of seeing the Torii Gates on the horizon. I miss finding kawaii stationary. I miss sitting down in the Starbucks, sipping coffee, writing my journal or simply reading a book or chit-chatting with Fafa. I miss spending hours in Kinokuniya bookstore. I miss eating rice burger for breakfast and strawberry cake for dessert.
I miss celebrating I miss celebrating New Year in Japan.
I miss roaming around Tsukiji fish market. I miss being an outsider while partaking in the culture. I miss learning and experiencing new and unusual things that are Japan.
Another good night sleep (Fafa complained that I started all my recent entries with the status of my sleep ━ it’s a diary, Fa, That’s how I write my diary) and stayed in bed for some time while Fafa cooked us Farmer’s breakfast. I so can get adjusted to this morning routine!
After breakfast and doing my daily tarot-card draw (Four of Wands), we went out to feed Korona and Kovid ━ the chickens, and I continued walking around the compound for some morning bird-watching session. It’s one of the self-care activities that nourish the old-soul in me.
After an hour in the blazing sun and failing to see any bird from close-proximity, I gave up. More than this, Amma for sure would complain of me being tanner than usual.
Since it’s our anniversary (we met in a bar in Singapore 11 years ago) we thought we would do something different instead of lazing around the farmhouse. We ended up driving to Bendigo town and roamed around the unexpectedly pleasant art-gallery there.
My favourite pieces include the dot paintings, the 1800s European paintings with strong oriental influenced and a wood-block painting of Asakusa temple. There were also beautiful indigenous pattern silk scarf and moon inspired jewellery made by local indigenous artist. In the end, I got the paper towel for our home and a zipper case for Jik, both in a same aboriginal print.
Art-upped, we walked around the town centre for some late lunch, forgetting for a moment that we were in a small town in Australia and nothing opens past 3 PM except for some chain restaurants.
Grill’d is a famous burger chain in Australia that claimed that they make healthy burgers. Since I’m not fond of burgers at all, I have never tried them, until today. It was okay, but not something I would go for again if there is any other choice.
Despite the lunch blunder, I like Bendigo, dare I say, more than Echuca. On the drive back home I told Fafa, I could retire there. He pretended not to hear me.
One-hour later, we were back in the Echuca farm. Just in time for me to shower, write the anniversary card I got for Fafa and watch an hour of Come Dine With Me together. After this, I am going do the Cold full-moon in Cancer (The Chariot) tarot spread, call my parents and read. Later tonight, if the wind storm is not so bad, Fafa and I are going to do some star-gazing.
I went to Gyoza Gyoza for a dinner and catch-up with Viv last Friday.
Full disclosure: I didn’t even have the courteous to wait for her before starting to put the food order once I sat down in their Melbourne Central branch. In my defense, it has been a crazy workday, and I had to skip lunch hence I was famished. I did apologize to her. Halfway eating my grilled miso rice — with both hands, making a mess of myself — no doubt making her feel second-hand embarrassment, I realized this place might just be my favorite chain restaurant in Melbourne (Hoka Hoka Bento in Jakarta and Sakae Sushi in Singapore).
They have delicious tapas-style Japanese food. From edamame, yakitori, takoyaki to miso soup. And their drinks are delicious. So are the desserts.
I have lots of good memories in Gyoza Gyoza. I have been here with Fafa, I think twice with Jik and at least one time by myself. Clearly, it’s my go-to place for comfort food. Their price range from single-digit but doesn’t mean that they are cheap because you tend to eat a lot here.
I have been ignoring the notion of keeping two blogs simultaneously for the longest time. I pushed the idea almost immediately when it sprouted in my mind. Tbh, I think the idea could have never been my own, as it’s just beyond me why people would keep two blogs at the same time.
Abandoning one and starting a new one — with a new look, new niche, new topic of interest or new name? — sign me up. I am here for it. And I have done that plenty in the past (RIP Tr4velGeek, ForeignGeek, NomadWitch, JoyMagick, TarotKween, DaysofW, and QuarantineBuddy).
But never keeping two blogs at the same time.
I didn’t see the point because I could write whatever I wanted in my one blog. Until it was pointed out to me, by a “blogging guru” if I want my blog to grow, it’s best not. Because you know, niche and all. So I weeded out the KultureKween blog, removing anything that is not within the cultural niche.
A year ago, I asked a tarot reader to read about my blog. It was the first reading of many on the same topic (yes, I am obsessed enough with my blog to get multiple reading for it).
I don’t remember much of her answer, most probably because I couldn’t resonate with it. But there was a part where I complained to her that felt like I can’t write about other things other than culture, how that thought crippled me, and I ended up not writing at all.
“Sometimes a trip to a beach is just that, you know, a trip to the beach. I want to be able to write about it on my blog without constantly trying to tie the experience from a cultural angle”. I mumbled to her.
She pulled out a card and suggested the obvious:
“Why not keep another blog on the side?”
I peeked over the card, The Temperance.
At that time, I had just started learning tarot reading and Temperance was (and at times still) a card that I have a hard time understanding. Balance was the only thing that came into mind.
“Maybe” I answered her noncommittally, because the truth was I came to her because I was tired — feeling dragged by the current blog. Therefore, having another blog, a second blog, seemed like going in the opposite direction of what I wished for: to draw joy from my passion.
Fast forward to a few months ago (read Covid Diary: 6 Months), when I sat on the bathroom floor, feeling panicky for not keeping a diary to record my life during the early stage of Covid.
The midnight mild anxiety attack stemmed from reading people’s Covid diaries. I felt a pang of jealously. Not of their experiences — but because they recorded their thoughts meticulously.
Dawn O’Porter even managed to write and publish a contemporary memoir about the pandemic, titled Life in Pieces, during this pandemic!
The next day, 8 August 2020, I paid $4.99 to Apple and jumped into the Dayone app. I spent the next week painstakingly copying the drafts I have kept in Evernote there. From then onward, I restarted diarising my life. Sometimes it is just a one-worded entry. Other times it goes on to a length of a blog post.
Though I didn’t notice it immediately, keeping a diary has been another anchor for my mental health well-being during Covid. Keeping a journal and updating it regularly pushes me to observe and write more. Soon after, I read Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies and was inspired to write morning pages daily.
These were the things that restarted my passion for writing anything and everything I wanted. It’s not in a noncohesive morning pages kind of way, but more like it might not be great, but still shareable kind of way.
That’s why I started Kovfefed. Well, it was Kovfefed.wordpress.com at first. I told myself I don’t need to pay for yet another blog if I can commit to writing on it daily for a full month.
That was two months ago today.
Kovfefed.wordpress.com turned into just Kovfefed sometime in between when WordPress offered 50% off of their paid plans. I subscribed to the cheapest one so that I can upload more photos. I also changed the Libre theme (which layout I loved the most) to Seedlet (which has the pagination at the bottom). It’s not the best, but that’s the only free one. One day, if I commit to daily writing for a more extended period of time, I will treat myself to Gema, the sexiest theme on WordPress.
Meanwhile, I also managed to dump all unrelated-to-culture posts which I removed from KultureKween to Kovfefed. These posts ranged from the time I started my first blog when I moved to Singapore 13 years ago to the current happenings.
I filled the archive with my tarot notes, obsessive thoughts about blogging, jobless rants, travel photos, shareable morning pages, random musings and snippets from my diary. Some just with a one-word and picture or even just a title (for now. I plan to fill it later).
Unlike Kulture Kween where I feel like I have the obligation (and I say that as a term of endearment) to write about culture-related posts, Kovfefed is more like my blank canvas. A fun, creative outlet.
My goal for KultureKween is to learn about culture by sharing it with others in writing. My goal for Kovfefed is to write and to practice my writing. And I can write whatever I want. Things I like, things I hate, and everything in between. That has been liberating.
And now, the actual point I wanted to make when I started writing this post 15 minutes ago, I can’t believe it took me this long to realize that having a personal blog is one of the best things I could have done for myself. If you are stuck with a writers’ block, consider that it might not be you, but it’s what you are writing about. And maybe a personal blog is the fix that your mind seeks.
We have celebrated both Christmas and New Year in Japan the past three years.
If it wasn’t because of Covid, by now, we would have bought the tickets, applied for the visa and booked our room at One@Tokyo hotel in Oshiage.
In a pandemic-sans world, by now, I would have made a complete itinerary on what to do, eat and see day by day in Japan. I would have started counting my days before our trip. Today would have been day-30 as we usually travel on the 24th December.
Like how it was in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
I know, in a grander scheme, I am not allowed to complain given how good life is going at the moment.
But I also know something will feel incomplete on the 1st of January when we are not ringing in the new year with sushi and sake. And that I won’t have the usual Japan Trip: The Good, The New and The Culture post published on the blog on the first week of next year.
I also can’t help but wonder if we had gone to Japan this year, what kind of things we would have gotten to experience there.
Maybe soaking in the Kusatsu Onsen or eating the famous Nozawana pickles. Maybe we would have gone to Tottori or at least Hiroshima. Maybe I would have the chance to practice the language I have been dedicating 10 minutes a day to learn for the most part of the year.
Maybe I would get to tick off from my ultimate Japan trip list or maybe add more to it. I would be okay either way because I will always miss Japan.
Is there anyone who doesn’t experience travel fails? Of course not.
It’s just that most of the time I intentionally choose to write about the good experiences of my travels instead of the travel fails.
Today I am going to share my travel fails here in the hope that maybe you too can relate, perhaps we can bond and or you can learn something from it. Or maybe you can judge me for being travel-stupid.
Not Liking The Place I Traveled (Vietnam)
Unlike most of the places I deliberately choose to travel to, I chose Vietnam because it’s only a couple hours away from Singapore. Also, lots of people rave about it. There was never an intrinsic, cultural pull personally. I was slightly hoping I’d be pleasantly surprised once I arrived.
I went with my cousins and had a good time with them there, but still, I was not too fond of Vietnam. Not even after sailing on the Mekong River. And after sipping Vietnamese drip coffee for three days in a row, I was so ready to go back.
Vietnam, I could have done without.
Some of my friends define Vietnam as the place to go while visiting South East Asia, kind of like how France is in Europe. There must be a base to it, might be because of the war stories, but it’s a generalization.
South-East Asia is much more than in Vietnam. It’s the potluck of Singapore, the richness of religious culture in Malaysia, the Hindu influence of Cambodia, and let’s not forget the lush rainforest of Borneo Indonesia.
From this experience I learn not to travel to a place that doesn’t “ping” me from inside. It might be an obvious choice for others, but if I am are not feeling it, I should keep my travel fare for some other places I am being called to visit.
Missed The Flight (Jakarta)
The flight was at 8:15 AM, and I reached the check-in counter by 6:50 AM. It’s not late, but this time everyone else had checked-in. Since I was late by a max of ten minutes (the check-in counter closed 90 mins before the departure), the check-in counter lady refused to check me in.
I tried to reason with her so much that I was on the brink of tears. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in the mood to show a single drop of compassion. I had to buy another ticket for a flight that left 45 minutes later than the first flight. When I passed by the waiting room at 8:20 AM, I could see my actual plane was still waiting to be boarded. Gah!
I wanted to hate that uptight Air Asia lady, but I stopped myself because at least I was still going on vacation.
From then onwards I have become one of those people who reach airport hours before the booking counter even opens. And I treat myself with a pre-holiday drinking inside on your free time, once I have checked-in.
Visa Denial aka Most Expensive Travel Fails (New Zealand)
My boarding pass was torn up in front of my very own eyes for not having a valid visa to layover for two hours in an airport in Australia before heading to our travel destination, New Zealand. Who knew that we needed a visa just to layover in the airport? I certainly didn’t. And to find out two hours before flying, it felt like a death sentence to my travel dreams. I went back fighting tears and dragging my luggage, which seemed to be heavier now than I was dragging it back home. Fafa cheered me up with coffee, and, later that night, booze. In the end, we managed to exchange it for a direct flight and reached Auckland two days later. Phew!
If you think I am going to conclude this part with a lesson learned is to check on layover visas, you are wrong (because of course, that one is obvious).
The lesson I learned is to have someone try to cheer you up when you are feeling super sad, someone who cares enough about your happiness to stay up all night to sort out the problem while you were passed out after drowning your sorrow in copious amonut of cider. It matters a lot, more than going to New Zealand itself.
Keep Losing Stuff (Japan)
I am not that good at keeping track of my things, especially the random ones. My mind works in an orderly manner and nothing else, which is why I have a travel checklist, and also why I always check my passport like 15 times before I reach the airport, but I misplace things.
I already made my peace in losing small things here and there while travelling, but the hard part is when I lose something precious or when I have the strong feeling that I have lost more things during my travel.
Among the things I have lost, the most memorable one was my first Kindle, which I went to so much trouble to get for myself for my birthday, years before Kindle was even a thing in Asia. I loved it with every fibre of my bookworm being, and I left it on the Delta Air Lines, flying back to Singapore from Japan.
I didn’t panic at first, as I was sure I would get it back. After calling and emailing Delta, and a few weeks of an unsatisfactory response, I came to terms with it.
My first eBook with 35+ self-help collections inside it was gone forever. I only hope that it made the person who took it into a better person after reading it. They have my self-help blessings.
Misplacing Passport (Netherlands)
My craziest moment of losing something was when I realized I couldn’t find my passport after I reached the immigration counter. I ran back to the arrival gate. Begged the stewardess to let me in because I thought I left my passport in the back of the aeroplane seat. Fortunately, she was kind enough to let me inside the flight again to collect my passport.
Retrospectively, it was a minor incident, but imagine if the flight had flown somewhere. I would be stuck in the airport, like Tom Hank in The Terminal.
Ever since, I always do a 4P check before leaving any plane. Passport, Phone, airPod and (travel) Pillow. Also, I stop keeping anything inside the back pocket of a plane seat.