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18th Jan
Monday, January 18th, 2016

Toyokawa Inari shrine (稲荷神社 Inari Jinja)

Posted by Shaun at 12:35 am under East Asia | 770 Reads | Post Comment

Not far off from Nagoya city is the Inari (Fox) shrine in the city of Toyokawa in eastern Aichi Prefecture, Japan. It is a shinto shrine to worship the god Inari. There are many Inari shrines in Japan, the one here resides right here in Toyokawa. Sōhonzan is the head temple of Inari temples. Going with the Buddhist traditions, the temple of the Sōtō sect was founded in 1441 by a Buddhist priest named Tōkai Gieki (東海義易). The deity is worshiped also in some Buddhist temples across Japan.

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Shrine Marketplace
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Fox goods
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Popular food stores

Two large wooden doors welcomes you into a courtyard lined with stores selling food and wares of trade, trademark goods here will be the fox-related items such as the adorable plush toys. You get to see several classical buildings of the era leading up to the main shrine, all deck out in elaborate wood supports. Past the main temple main archway, the main entrance of the shrine welcomes you with a large flight of stairs right into the shrine itself. Most of the temple was rebuilt in the Meiji period, from around 1536 and is the oldest existent buildings in the complex. The Main Hall was reconstructed in the Tempo period (1830-1843), and several other buildings also dating from the Edo period. The temple is open to all and is popular with the locals for visitations for good blessings.

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15th Jan
Friday, January 15th, 2016

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Posted by Shaun at 1:12 am under Museums, North America | 742 Reads | Post Comment

Toyota (previously known as Toyada) first started as a textile business, separating into both a textile and automotive business in 1950. The Toyota museum is located right here in the Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, the Toyota Automobile Museum which shows vintage cars, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which showcases company history, including its start as a textile mill.

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Workshop floor
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Raw materials
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Live demos

Various Toyada’s early inventions from manual textile looms to circular looms, Yarn spinning and Toyoda wooden hand looms and Group operated Type-G automatic looms are all showcased in the museum’s Textile Machinery Pavilion, which is essentially a large workshop housing all the looms. The machines are still running till today, with museum decorators offering live demonstrations of how they work. The mechanical looms are very well thought-through mechanical works of art in its own right, which served as innovation tools to further automate and weave more complex textile patterns and sizes even before the industrial revolution and computer-controlled electronics.

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Cloth printouts
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Forging demo
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Toyoda Model AA

The museum follows chronologically, branching off from the textile industry and transitions into Metalworking and automotive section. Here you get to witness live demonstrations of casting, forging and cutting, where you can witness the actual induction heating, and a large press actually cutting down the metal and quenching right in front of you to produced a forged part. The founding of Toyota’s first every production car, the Toyada standard sedan Model AA and it’s engine prototypes where subsequently introduced leading up to the main car gallery.

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Main Car section
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Learn how cars works
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Live manufacturing demos

The museum ends with an entry to a huge pavilion housing several cars and manufacturing facilities. The amazing fact is that all the production machines on display are actually real factory machines re-purposed for demonstrations. In typical Japanese perfection fashion, they are all done very painstakingly well to its real setting, you can even get to operate a painting production line, a milling machines, robotic assemblers as well as run a 600 ton machine press, Impressive! The museum exits to the partner robot life demonstration, where the museum’s cafeteria and store resides. The partner robots are Toyota’s robotic musicians and orchestra, they do musical performances several times daily here.

Check out more photos of the factory museum here.

14th Jan
Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Nagoya travels in, Aichi Prefecture, Japan

Posted by Shaun at 10:24 pm under East Asia | 2165 Reads | Post Comment

Nagoya (名古屋市) is the center of Japan’s third-largest metropolitan Chūbu region situated along the pacific coast Yokohama, Chiba, and Kitakyushu. It is the largest city in the Chūbu region of Japan. Nagoya is home to 2.3 million people, forming part of Chūkyō Metropolitan Area comprising of 9.1 million people in total. If you are flying into Nagoya, chances your port of entry will be the Chubu International Airport, constructed on an artificial island, the airport itself is modern, fitting and welcoming to any visitor here in this part of Japan.

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Chubu International Airport
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On the roads

The heart of the city will be Central Nagoya (Chūkyō Metropolitan Area) where the city’s main Shinkansen station resides. It connects the city to the rest of Japan via high speed rail. The Nagoya center terminal serves the heart of Nagoya and is home to a large JR rail shopping center, with Takashimaya as an anchor tenant too. In typical Japanese tradition, the people here are all very courteous and polite. Even the streets of Nagoya are extremely clean and free from litter too.

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Nagoya Streets
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Unagi rice

During my trip, I had the chance to try authentic master chef crafted Unagi rice. The store is situated about a 15min walk from Nagoya central station and serves the best Unagi (Eel) don (or Unadon) in Nagoya. It consists of a donburi type large bowl filled with steamed white rice, and topped with fillets of eel (unagi) grilled in a style known as kabayaki, similar to teriyaki.

Even the Udon and Ramen served at their food courts tastes better than the best mainstream Japanese restaurants in Singapore- at less than half the price too. Attractions here in Nagoya includes the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Toyokawa Inari shrine and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.

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Non hoi park
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Toyota museum
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Toyokawa Inari shrine

Nagoya is synonymous to the Toyota brand, and is the birthplace of Japan’s leading car manufacturer. Nagoya is home to their headquarters and many of its domestic production plants in the region are all situated right in Nagoya itself. You will get a hint or two of its presence, such the large number of Toyota vehicles, particularly Priuses all around the city.

More to come as I cover each of the attractions here in more detail.

Check out more photos of beautiful Nagoya city here.

8th Jan
Friday, January 8th, 2016

Happy New 2016!

Posted by Shaun at 6:58 pm under Blogs | 881 Reads | Post Comment

Wishing all my visitors on my site a Happy New 2016! Every year is always a busy year for me, and resolutions are always a big thing for the New Year. What are your New Year resolutions? I managed to stick to my last resolutions. Last year, I got back to running on a regular basis, totalling at least 15km of runs each week and ending the year with 20km per week. Totalling over xxx km. I had the chance to experiment with many new running aids, watches and health trackers to aid and automate the distance tracking of my runs. It is good to see myself running again after a few year of absence.

Every year, I plan to learn a new skill or start a new hobby. I got back into music again with the Piano, forcing myself to take weekly classes with a school which I am seeing good results and the complexity of songs I am playing now. Good thing I still have a keyboard at home to practice!

Traveling-wise, I plan to visit more of Asia with short trips. Which is sensible too, as the cost of a US or Europe trip can easily cost as much as many small trips in the region. I had never visited areas beyond Thailand, including Laos and Vietnam, so it will be good to check out these places in the near future. Furthermore, with the US dollar expected to appreciate against the Singapore dollar, it makes more sense to visit Asia and even China now, with the depreciating Yuan.

I thoroughly enjoyed a recent trip to Japan, this sparked me to revisit my command in the Japanese language, I studied French and Japanese in school, but never commanded much practice of the languages due to lack of practice. So for this year, I am keen to pick up a new language or even revisit one, this may prove useful for my future east-Asia trips.

2016 is also the year of the monkey, the Chinese-zodiac anniversary year for my father. I will be planning many good things for him this year. Other on-going miscellaneous resolutions will also include upgrading this website and brush up my creative skills in drawing. In short, it is Pick up a new hobby, Travel more in Asia and pickup a new language, now that’s more than enough to keep me busy for the year!

22nd Dec
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Lego Land Malaysia Themepark, static Miniland Lego displays and learning areas

Posted by Shaun at 11:01 pm under South East Asia, Theme Parks | 12 Reads | Post Comment

Static Outdoor Lego Miniland displays
No Legoland is ever complete without their trademark static display of Miniland Lego models. Each Legoland static display is unique as it comprises of Lego architecture specific to the region they are in. For instance, the UK one has a recreation of London, while the Florida one has a recreation of New York City.

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Lego Static displays
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KL Airport
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Singapore CBD Model

The Malaysian park is no different with their own collection of Malaysian landmarks, such as KL international airport, the streets of Jalan Melorum, as well as a mock-up of the Singapore Marina bay area and Central business district complete with landmarks such as the Singapore Flyer and the Merlion by the Fullerton-Marina bay. Some of these displays are motorized, having moving vehicles, planes and trains. At night, the buildings are lit up with tiny LEDs, giving it an authentic city feel.

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Wonders around the world
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Chima world
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Jalan Melorum model

In addition to the region-specific models are those from the various Lego universes such as Chima as well as replicas of the wonders of the world. Other notable permanent displays will also include the Lego Starwars display, where visitors can run through a linear route of galleries with each Lego scene recreated based on the Starwars movies in running episodes.

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20th Dec
Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Rides at the Lego Land Malaysia Themepark

Posted by Shaun at 9:38 pm under Featured, South East Asia, Theme Parks | 10 Reads | Post Comment

Legoland Malaysia sells itself as a theme park destination first with rides to boot. It is home to 20 rides comprising of 3 roller coasters and 2water rides. Key rides in the park include the roller coasters, namely the Lego Technic test tract (Project X) by the entrance, and The Dragon roller coaster. The Project X, Lego Technic Test Track is a heavily themed wild mouse coaster which seats 4 going around hard corners, giving the riders like they are test subjects in a Technic test track.

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Project X, Lego Technic Test Track
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Dragon apprentice queue area
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Dragon apprentice trains

The Dragon apprentice is a mini closed-loop powered family roller coaster especially for younger guests. It even has adorable little dragon Lego figures which squirts water when activated along the ride queue line. Due to its short track, the mini coaster does two round circuit yet still offering some thrills along the helixes at speed.

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The Dragon ride entrance
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The Dragon Coaster
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Ahoy matey!

The Dragon Roller Coaster is possibly the best ride in the park. It is a traditional hill-lift sit-down roller coaster featuring a good first drop and helix runs. There are no inversions. The ride castle entrance is very well themed too, which is a stark contrast to the inadequate theming on some of the other rides.

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13th Dec
Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Lego Land Malaysia Themepark in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Getting there.

Posted by Shaun at 9:38 pm under Featured, South East Asia, Theme Parks | 12 Reads | Post Comment

Legoland Malaysia the 1st Legoland in Asia and the first International Theme park in Malaysia. Though the park had been opened since 2012 as the 6th park in the Legoland world, I never saw the opportunity to head across the border until now. The Legoland franchise originated from Europe and mostly run by the British-based Merlin Group, comprising similar theme parks in Windsor (UK), Carlsbad (USA, California), Florida and of course the very first LEGOLAND right in Billund, Denmark which started it all in 1968 as means to diversify the toy brand into the entertainment industry.

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Bus from Singapore Flyer
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Journey there
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Park main entrance

Getting there
An online search for value tickets buys yielded offers to a sole travel agent (WTS Travel) who offer direct daily bus trips from the Singapore Flyer or BigBox Jurong East right to the Iskandar theme park for a fee inclusive of coach transfer. I am glad that these local travel agencies had gone about making the travel to Legoland as pain-free as possible, contrary to organizing your own bus trip or driving up. An adult park ticket inclusive of a return coach trip and coach insurance costs from $78.00 to $82.00 SGD. The addition of the Legoland water park ranges from $92.00 to $96.00 SGD. You pay the higher (peak) price during gazette school holidays.

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25th Nov
Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Future of Us Exhibition Singapore at Gardens By the Bay

Posted by Shaun at 11:50 pm under Events | 3030 Reads | Post Comment

Ever wondered how Singapore will be like in the future? The Future of Us exhibition is an immersive and multi-sensory exhibition offering glimpses into the possibilities of Singapore’s tomorrow through living, work, care and play. It is themed as a probable/plausible technology showcase of what Singapore will be like in the future. Tucked within the compounds of Gardens by the Bay, Singapore right beside Bayfront (CE1/DT16) MRT Station, the venue comprises of four inter-linking domes housing various exhibits in air-conditioned comfort accessible to visitors of all ages. One dome leads onto the next in a linear manner covering various aspects of the exhibition journey. If you are driving, set your GPS to 30 Marina Boulevard, parking at Marina Bay sands is nearer, but cheaper at the Gardens by the Bay.

Autonomous tour vehicles
Main entrance

The display is the capstone event to round up Singapore’s Julie year and SG50 celebrations and runs from Dec 1st 2015 to 8th March 2016 with free admission to all. The exhibition is open 9am to 9pm daily with last entry at 8.30pm. The exhibition starts off with a small multimedia area at the entrance which doubles up as a holding area and crowd control for the Theatre in the first dome. This display area has a number of interactive “newspaper” snippets of the purpose of the exhibition, covering key past events of Singapore, the identity of Singaporeans and the vision to look forward into Singapore’s next chapter.

Entrance displays
Theatre of generations
Symphony of the city

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24th Nov
Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Microsoft Surface 4 Pro Singapore retail launch party (Device Review)

Posted by Shaun at 11:32 pm under Events, Gadgets | 1912 Reads | Post Comment

Microsoft introduced their newest addition to the Surface Pro line of 2-in-1 PCs with a bang at the MAD art gallery in Tanglin today. Riding on the success of previous Surface generations, Microsoft has stuck to the still-winning formula of a 2-in-1 platform in this 4th generation and improved on it incrementally with small nuances. Arthur Huang, Director of Microsoft Singapore consumer channels group was there to give an introduction to the release. Most of the keynote were based-off Panos Panay own unveiling at Microsoft’s Windows 10 devices event earlier this year. There is nothing mentioned here about the Surface Book for Singpaore though.

Event space
Arthur Huang keynote

Noticeably with the new Surface, you get as a larger screen, an improved drawing N-Trig based pen and a more ergonomic keyboard on top of the Skylake processor refresh. The “PC-tablet” so as I will like to call it, comes decked with a choice of the said 6th Gen Intel Core processors. With the considerations that users are more app-centric (than device centric) these days, technical specifications hardly really matter now. The device line-up comes in 3 main flavors packaged in 6 different hardware configurations starting with the lowest-spec-ed Intel Core m3 with 128GB SSD and 4GB RAM to an Core i7 with 256GB SSD and 16GB RAM.

Up close & personal
Full range rear kickstand

You also get a full range rear kickstand, which unlike the cheaper Surface 3 with only 3 discreet positions hinges into another angle you want. Having a fused screen with the magnesium body allows for a very compact and optimised design, but similar to the majority of Apple products, upgradability of the Microsoft device is still horrendous (with an ifixit score of 2/10). It is still non user-upgradable and you will have to stick to your purchased configuration for your product’s entire lifespan- not quite the future-proof trait synonymous with Windows-based PCs. The best performance-to-price configuration will be the Core i5 with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM ($1,999). I find the i7 version over priced ($2,499 to $3,399) for a Surface and the m3 base model ($1,399) is too underpowered, with insignificant additional battery-life benefits.

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18th Nov
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Starwars BB-8 astromech droid anatomy exploded view, How BB-8 works

Posted by Shaun at 12:53 am under Blogs, Interesting Stuffs | 5436 Reads | Post Comment

BB-8 is arguably one of my favorite adorable little astromech droids in the Starwars universe (Sorry R2D2). Ever wonder how BB-8 works? I had spent some good time drawing up an exploded view of BB-8 in all it’s engineering glory. Have a peek into what makes him tick, courtesy of yours truly! (click the image below for a full-sized version).

BB-8 astromech droid anatomy exploded view
BB-8 Droid Exploded View StarWars BB-8 Astromech Droid Anatomy Working

At the center of BB-8 core is an omnidirectional drive unit which always stays upright (or in any orientation BB-8 wants to lean in). This Omni drive unit sits in BB-8 core which rotates an encompassing hemisphere housing a variety of droid repair tools (i.e. called the tools Hemisphere). This hemisphere is part of the first layer hollow sphere contains a “swiss army style” array of interface arms, manipulators essential for droid functions. These hemispheres are bolted on with protective tough durasteel external paneling, giving BB-8 traction when rolling on steel surfaces and loose sand, courtesy of 4 internal omnidirectional threaded wheels. This serves as the droid’s main mode of locomotion by rotation of this entire spherical body assembly.

Inside the omnidirectional drive unit is BB-8 primary power source (Central power unit) and IMU unit housing secondary Gyros which stays upright and does not rotate with the spherical body assembly when BB-8 moves. BB-8 head is kept upright courtesy of this IMU unit mentioned earlier, this is “fastened” to the body through superconducting levitators (i.e a kind of superconducting magnet) which does not interfere or induces parasitic currents through the tool hemispheres. This makes it an ideal method to attach and keep BB-8 head up with a minimal clearances from his body, as well as serve as a wireless mode of power transmission to feed the power-hungry Intellex computer located in BB-8’s head.

There is alot going up in BB-8’s head, it too has it’s own IMU unit which knows it’s orientation with respect to it’s body. The head is also not tethered to the body using wires and is powered by induction, allowing full 360 rotation along the superconducting Levitator axis. The Intellex Computer is a battle-proven piece of hardware which compliments the combat starfighters. A variety of visual, audio and electromagnetic sensors also reside in BB-8’s cranium allowing him to detect and identify with his surroundings even without a line of sight.

Feel free to share this! And may the force awakens! 🙂

14th Nov
Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Quick sketches- Rocket Raccoon

Posted by Shaun at 12:23 am under Art | 841 Reads | Post Comment

Rocket Raccoon Artwork Sketch Shaunchng
A small doodle, I did on a sketch book of one of my few favourite marvel characters, Rocket Racoon.

11th Nov
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Huawei Android Wear Smart Watch in Singapore

Posted by Shaun at 7:03 pm under Blogs, Computers | 4587 Reads | Post Comment
huawei watch

The Huawei watch will be sold in Singapore, that is the latest release I was informed by Huawei Singapore last month. The watch is possibly the best-looking Android wear watch you can buy today, even surpassing the likes of the LG Urbane and Moto 360 2nd Gen. Huawei has invited me to have a try out of their watches, following a rather excited call from their staff on the launch of their much-anticipated Huawei watch in Singapore- A tad late as the Americas already have the watch on sale for the past 2 months. Better late than never nonetheless.

If you want to have a go at trying out the watch, do check out their flagship store at Plaza Singapura level 3. The watches are not ready for sale yet, but in the likes of Apple store style exclusivity, there are sample watches in store for try outs and fitting where you can pre-order your watch configuration of choice.

The Huawei watch will come in 3 main flavors, you essentially get the same watch unit with the gorgeous 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 full circle screen (286ppi) and compatible with iOS 8.2 or Android 4.3. It is differentiated in an array of body colours and interchangeable watch bands.

Variants and Prices.
Retail prices are in Singapore dollars.

  1. Silver face in leather strap- $549 (There is a rose gold in brown strap variant too)
  2. Silver face stainless steel link strap- $649 (Fine bracelet links and traditional chunky links)
  3. Black in black leather strap- $649
  4. Black in black stainless steel link strap- $749
  5. Rose gold body and leather strap- $899
  6. Rose gold body and metal gold-link strap- $999

You do pay a premium for the watches and it comes in a pretty box as well which seems to hold it’s age with time. Huawei is marketing the watch as a premium product, contrary to their array of low-priced/affordable phones synonymous to the Chinese OEM. Only the Rose gold option is unique in terms of it’s body and strap colour combination. The first two variants are just mix-and-match variants of the same silver or matte black body paired with permutations of different watch straps material and colour.

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