Posted in Family, General

September 2018 Update


I just want to give the latest update. My family is no longer living in Tokyo.

Last year, on the first day of school when my kids had just started their new school year, we received the news from my husband’s company that we were supposed to return home by the end of the year.

To say we were shocked was an understatement. When my husband’s contract was renewed at the beginning of 2017, it was for a 2-year term. So, we were mentally not prepared to go home yet.

I had just spent weeks in August looking at furniture and curtains because our 2-year lease of furniture with Tokyo Lease was ending and we were renewing it for 18 more months. I even ordered a red Kenwood food processor for my kitchen.

I had also just arranged for a shipment of food packages from Malaysia. Of course, I would not be doing so, if I knew we would be leaving soon.

So, what souvenirs did I get for myself? Definitely not Noritake like many other Malaysian women. Not handbags either.

All I had was my stock of stationery. Even though I had mentioned in my earlier post that I wasn’t into expensive and branded stationery, by October I went to the Traveler’s Factory in Tokyo Station to get myself the limited edition Tokyo Station Traveler’s Notebook leather journal cover.

I also collected a lot of fallen ginkgo and maple leaves as souvenirs. I turned some of them into bookmarks.

We would miss the cherry blossoms in April 2018, so in December I was busy taking photos of fuyu zakura (winter cherry blossoms) whenever I saw them, even though nobody else cared about them.

One week before flying home, we moved out of the rented house in Yakumo and checked-in into New Otani Hotel in Akasaka-Mitsuke.

Then we had to deal with the shipment of goods to Malaysia, the return of furniture to Tokyo Lease, the termination of Internet and phone services and finally the house inspection and the return of the key.

The hardest part was dealing with disposal of waste. I had to plan it carefully around the days of disposal of recyclables and burnable/combustible and the volume that we could dispose off in one day.

I was lucky that the roses in the garden were still blooming even though it was already late December, so I could still take one last photo before we said sayonara.

Now, 9 months after coming home to Malaysia, I really could appreciate that this was actually the best plan Allah had laid out for us.

My son had the chance to sit for SPM even though he will be taking only 8 papers. I had also been involved with my eldest daughter preparation to further her studies in England.

In July 2015, we left her to study in Malaysia when the rest of the family moved to Tokyo. Now, just after turning 21, she left us in Malaysia to pursue her degree in Newcastle.

That is the circle of life.

Even though I haven’t blogged in a long time, I have been sharing my journals on instagram instead. My handle is @aijournals. πŸ’•

Posted in Family, food, General

Sunday Morning Delivery

Spring equinox is approaching and each day sunrise is getting earlier and earlier. Japan doesn’t have Day Light Saving clock adjustment, so this will go on continuously until we reach summer solstice.

For those Muslims living in the tropical countries, prayer times do not vary much throughout the year. The most is probably 30 minutes difference.

However in the four-season countries, we have to keep track of the daily changes because our daily five prayer times are set according to the movement of the sun.

That is today’s prayer times. Shuruq means sunrise. Muslims Subuh or Fajr prayer must be performed before sunrise.  So we should set our alarm clock early enough to allow us ample time to wash up before the prayer.

There are two types of washing up, wudu (ablution) or ghusl (full body washing). 

Thus depending on the type of washing required, the alarm clock is set accordingly.  πŸ˜Š

This morning, I had to wait for the delivery of halal food that I’d ordered online from Baticrom. I had once missed the delivery guy because I went back to sleep after Fajr prayer. So, this morning,  I reset the alarm clock for 8:30, though I was anxious I might miss it that I didn’t go back to sleep at all.

The delivery πŸ“¦ guy from Kuroneko arrived around 9 am, carrying 2 boxes with him.

That’s the genkan, the entrance of a Japanese house where we leave our outdoor shoes.

Those are the contents of the boxes. The dry box contains rice and the wet one contains frozen halal chicken, beef and paratha.

Posted in Family, General

My February in Japan

February is the shortest month of the year and the second coldest month in Japan. Β It is also the month that I’ve spent the most in Japan.

  1. 2004 I visited Japan for the first time under the “Friendship Programme for the 21st Century” organised by JICA. I was here for 3 weeks and stayed in a few places; Osaka JICA Centre, Tokyo, Kawaguchiko, Fuji and a homestay in Aichi.
  2. 2006 My family lived in the Snow Country, Urasa, Niigata then where my husband was studying in IUJ. That year, we had the most snow ever.
  3. 2007 It was our second winter in Urasa but the snow was much lighter than the previous year. We then left Japan in June 2007.
  4. 2008 We stayed for about a month in Β Azabu area, Tokyo. It was a plan that didn’t turn out the way we expected. Let’s just say, Allah had a greater plan for us.
  5. 2016 We were back in Japan. My husband had been posted here.
  6. 2017 We were still in Tokyo. Insya-Allah we will still be here in February 2018 too.
Posted in Family

Final Goodbye to My Mum

I had mentioned about losing my mum in October 2015. It happened so sudden, after she had an operation which we thought would help to make her feel less pain. On Wednesday 7th. October, I took a flight home to see her for the last time. My husband didn’t go back with us because at that time, Ar was away on a school trip in Nagano and was supposed to return on Friday. My flight that night was at 11:40. Mel and I had already gone for boarding when I received a message from my sister saying that my mum had taken her last breath. Only then I told my sister that I was on my way home and was about to board the plane.

The original plan was for my cousins to pick me up from the KL International Airport and then for us to go back to my hometown in Taiping together. They  came but I found out that they were planning to come back to KL the following day whereas I had planned to stay longer. So, I changed my mind. I asked them to drop Mel and me at home, and I would drive my own car. I sent a message to my father-in-law to tell him my plan. He said he would have to connect back the car battery because he had disconnected it previously for the car was going to be idle  for a long time.

I waited for him to do that and only at about 8:30 am started the 240 km drive. That was the first time ever I had driven for such a long distance. Usually, it would be my husband who drove the car when we went back to visit my parents. I was driving carefully, following the speed limit and when I arrived in Ipoh, my cousins texted to check my location. For a Muslim, I knew it was bad to delay the burial, so I told them to go ahead and not wait for me.

Finally, I arrived in Kamunting and had another trouble finding the cemetery. Apparently there were two cemetery sites around there and I went to the wrong one. I had to call my brother-in-law to give me the correct location.

I reached the cemetery just moments when people were about to lower the body into the burial ground. When they found out we had arrived, Mel and I were allowed to give our final kiss to my mum. It was really heart-breaking but I was relieved that we had the chance to do so. Then I found out that one of my sisters was still on her way back. She lives in Malaysia but away in Sabah, a state in Borneo Island. She couldn’t get a ticket for an immediate flight, that’s why she didn’t make it on time. My sister only arrived after we finished the Maghrib prayer.

It turned out that my relatives had distributed among them to recite the Quran as sadaqah for my mother. There are 30 juz (sections) in the Quran, so each person (siblings,  cousins, nieces and nephews etc.) would recite one or two juz. They said nobody had taken up juz 28. So that night I recited juz 28.

I haven’t mentioned my father. He took it rather badly. He looked so depressed. He said he had been the one who was sick and he expected to go first. Now, without my mother, he seemed lost. As the eldest child, I felt bad because I live so far away and could not help in looking after him. After a long discussion, my youngest sister (the only one not yet married among my siblings) offered to quit her job to take care of my father. However, that might take some time, so in the meanwhile, my two sisters who live in the same town as my father would take turn to do it.

I stayed in Taiping until Saturday afternoon. When we reached USJ, I went immediately to Mydin to get things to bring back to Japan. I also bought a new luggage. That night, I spent a long time packing. Shifting and taking things in and out to make sure we did not exceed the 40 kg checked-in baggage allowance.

On Sunday morning, I went to the farmers’ market in Putra Heights. A dear friend who lives nearby came with her husband to see me. I’m grateful for that. My sister-in-law offered to drive us to the airport. She just dropped us off outside the departure hall. We checked in, prayed Zuhr and then met another close friend who came to see me off. I’m so grateful to those who have given me support, either in person or in prayers.

We reached Haneda Airport at around 10:30 pm that night. My husband and my son waited for us there and we took a cab home. The following day, 12th of October was a public holiday, so Mel had a day at least to rest before going back to school.


Posted in Family, General, Pictures

First Day of 2017

Happy New Year of 2017. γ‚γ‘γΎγ—γ¦γŠγ‚γ§γ¨γ†γ”γ–γ„γΎγ™γ€‚

I’m revising my Japanese lesson now. So this is just a quick update (before midnight) of our photos from the walk to/from Jiyugaoka today.

The illumination was not as grand as in Shibuya or Odaiba, but pretty enough to be enjoyed.

Posted in Family, General, Pictures

The last day of 2016

It’s already the fourth month in Islamic calendar and counting by that, today marks the 21st anniversary of my wedding. Alhamdulillah, I’m grateful for all the blessings in our lives. May Allah bless us with many more happy years together.

Today has been rather warm. I took several photos around our little garden today.

Yes, the roses are still here. I’m so blessed.

The bare dogwood against the beautiful blue sky.

The berries are gone.

The backyard bordering an abandoned house.

Some pink wild flowers in the front yard.

Posted in Family, Kids, Pictures

Chigiri-e Art

When we were in Nemba Cultural Village two weeks ago, I bought some washi papers to make chigiri-e projects.

I have never learned how to do this properly, so Mel and I just did it our own way.

So, here’s our first attempt.

The first one with the purple flower is Mel’s. Mine is the persimmons.

Posted in Family, Pictures

Yoshiya at Shinjuku Station

Last Saturday, my family went out just to have meals. My son, Ar wanted to eat kebab, so we went to Roppongi and ate at Kader Kebab.

After eating, we thought of exploring Shinjuku Station. We rarely go to this station even though back in the summer 2006, when my husband was doing his internship at a company in Roppongi and staying at a studio apartment far away in Kumegawa, we had to pass through Shinjuku Station to come to the city centre.

I think, even if I go to Shinjuku every day for one month to explore the station, I could still get confused of the exits, entrances and the train lines at this station. Remember when I went for my driving tests at Fuchu Driver’s Licence Center? I had to take the connecting train from Shinjuku. I went there for four times, the first time with my husband but he passed the test on the first attempt, so the other three times, I went alone. I only passed the test on my fourth attempt but on the way back, I got confused at Shinjuku Station. I usually just walked from Shinjuku JR Station to Shinjuku San-chome Station. However, that time I was confused so I had to take the Marunochi Line train to Shinjuku San-chome.

Anyway, on Saturday, I just managed to walk inside Odakyu. When it was time for dinner, we were not sure where to eat, but then we saw a restaurant that had a halal sign there. The name of the restaurant is Yoshiya.

Here are some photos from the restaurant.

Posted in Family, General, Kids, Pictures

Heavy Snow in Urasa

11 years ago, my husband won a Monbukagakusho scholarship to further his studies in Japan. He decided to study MBA in Urasa, Niigata. Niigata had been hit by earthquake of 6.6 Richter scale just a year before in 2004.

Before the start of that daring adventure, we had to make many other brave decisions. He had to quit his job, I had to take unpaid leave from my job and finally we and our two kids had to move to Japan. We didn’t speak Japanese and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to get halal food here. We would have only the scholarship to support our family of four.

I had to wait till the end of school year for my eldest daughter Fa before we joined my husband Li in Urasa. He moved to Japan in September because his classes had already started and the three of us only came in late October. He was staying at the uni dorm in the beginning but he had found a little apartment for our family to move into as soon as we arrived.

It was Ramadan then and just five days before Eid. Most people were travelling back to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with their parents and families. I had a mixed feeling. I was looking forward to be with my husband again but at the same time, I felt sad for not being able to spend Eid with my parents. My daughter Fa was 8 and my son Ar was 4. Our flight was around 11 am but we had to be at the airport 3 hours earlier.

Each of us had a baggage allowance of 30 kg, however I couldn’t utilise it to the max since my biggest concern would be to look after the children, not carrying a lot of baggage. My brother-in-law who was then a pilot with the airline (and thus had a special pass) helped us to carry our hand-carries (Fa insisted on bringing her Serafina – a soft toy cat from Barbie the movie in her backpack – it occupied the whole bag) up to the plane. It was strange to be travelling abroad at this period, but the cabin crew just thought we were the family of a pilot going away  a few days before Eid because the pilot had to be on duty.

I was fasting that day but Fa decided not to because she said she wanted to eat KFC chicken before the flight (the KFC in Japan is not halal). Unfortunately it was still too early when we reached KLIA and KFC was still serving the breakfast menu, so Fa didn’t get to eat her favourite chicken before leaving the country. Pity her, but life is like that. We don’t always get what we wish for.

The flight took 7 hours. It was time to break my fast just before we landed, so I ate the delayed meal served by the airline for those who were fasting. It took us a while to get through the immigration and claimed our baggage. Li was already waiting with a friend. The friend had a Toyota Estima and had previously lived in Tokyo before moving to Urasa, so he was somehow familiar with the road. The journey from Narita Airport to Urasa took about 4 hours. We only made a stop once to buy some food supplies – halal chickens, rice and so on.

Li had already rented a 2K apartment which came with a large fridge. It was past midnight when we reached the apartment so I didn’t get to see the outside yet. The house has 2 rooms, both with tatami mats. The kitchen served as living and dining as well. The bathroom was separated from the toilet. It was cosy enough for us.

When we celebrated Eid five days later, we still didn’t have much in the house, not even proper plates, but we were just grateful to be together. I had brought some Malaysian Eid food with me, but other than that, I didn’t cook any special meal on Eid morning. We just made do with whatever we had. The Eid prayer was held at 7 am at the university community centre and Li had classes immediately after that, so he went for the prayer alone. Alhamdulillah, there were two other Malaysian families there, so we celebrated by visiting their houses and on the weekend the Muslim Students Association at the university also organised an Eid gathering.

Urasa had a very heavy snow the first winter we were there. The first snow arrived on the 1st of December 2005 and the last one was in late March 2006. Fa had to walk one mile in the heavy snow to get to her school. I was worried at first but eventually got used to it.

Last December we went on a trip and stayed at an Airbnb in Yuzawa and decided to revisit Urasa and managed to take the photo of our old apartment. Other than IUJ, we also visited Fa’s and Ar’s old schools. We tried to look for an old friend from the Snow Flake Club at the school but unfortunately she was away for Christmas. Snowfall came rather late somehow this season. Usually by the end of December, there would already be one meter of snow on the ground but it was just starting to snow when I took this picture of our old apartment. Every morning, I had to shovel the heavy snow away from the stairs before Fa left for school, and then repeat it several times throughout the day.

Posted in Family, General, Kids


Back in October, my husband’s family made a plan to visit us. They consisted of my parents-in-law, my sister-in-law with her husband and two kids and my brother-in-law with his eife and baby. Altogether there would be nine of them.

I was not worried about the rooms allocation so much but rather on the beddings requirements. I didn’t have enough for the guests.

I searched online on where to buy futons. I even went to the newly opened Nitori store in Nakameguro. I decided to buy them online but Li suggested that we waited till it’s closer to the date before buying anything.

By mid-November, we thought we should make the order for the futons and so confirmed with the guests about their date of arrival. My brother-in-law said he’d changed his mind. He was not coming after all because travelling with a baby during winter would be too troublesome. So we were down to six people.

One day, I mentioned to my Nihongo classmates about planning to buy futons. One of them suggested that I check the stock at Don Quixote. He told me there is one store in Nakameguro. I went there to have a survey but what caught my eyes were the Coleman sleeping bags instead. They were meant for going camping but I thought sleeping bags are much smaller and easier to store. I could let the two boys sleep in them. 

I Googled again to find out if anybody ever let their houseguests sleep in sleeping bags rather than on futons. I couldn’t find any satisfactory answer other than about kids using sleeping bags when having sleepover. However, my husband agreed with me that getting sleeping bags would be a much better solution. Futons are harder to get rid off when it is time to go back to our country for good. The rest of the furniture in this house (everything from sofa, beds, tables, chairs, curtains and even beddings) are on lease. At the end of the contract, we will just have to return them to the leasing company.

Then we heard another news. My mother-in-law was not well and she didn’t feel like travelling. If she wasn’t coming, of course my father-in-law wouldn’t be coming either.

In the end, we were down to only four houseguests. Three of them already arrived late last night. One is coming later during the weekend. We didn’t need to buy any extra futon or sleeping bag after all my worrying. πŸ˜„

I didn’t even have to think where to bring them around Tokyo. They already had their own plan. At 9 this morning, the three of them were all ready to go out and explore Ginza on their own. They didn’t even have breakfast at home. Now, all that I have to do is plan what to cook for dinner. 😊