I kept this diary of things we have done in Singapore for 2 years. I have now moved some of it to other travel pages but you can still find links to many of our activities here. I have also created a reading list of books we have read about the region.

Western Japan

Birds in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur stopover

Thai Diving

Singapore Liveaboard

Local Residents

Beijing Summer

Diving with Sharks

Shanghai Heatwave

Taiwan Tourists

An Indian week

Where U bin?

Island hideaway

Steamy running

A Trip to the Zoo

Gardens by the Bay


Singapore walks

Mind the bus

Flower power


Early weeks


Vicky's Blog


Four days in Japan to visit one of our factories. This is way out in the countryside between Kobe and Osaka at a place called Sasayama. A bit like building a factory outside Shrewsbury - we are the biggest employer in the area and many of the (largely female) staff are wives of local farmers. One of the reasons that we have a factory in Japan is because the local market is extremely particular about how products look and are packaged. You see this whenever you go to the shops in Japan where everything is individually packaged (Friends of the Earth wouldn't like it) and beautifully wrapped. Our production lines have expensive machines that check that every pill is perfect before they are packed into equally perfect blisters and boxes. None of our other factories work to such high standards but this is Japan. This is apparent in both the spotless production areas and the immaculate trees and rock gardens that landscape the grounds.

We can't find a hotel in Sasayama so stay in Sanda City about 30km up the road. The hotel is on the outskirts of town and my view is a rather dull housing estate with hills in the background. In fact the local landscape is very fine with steep wooded hills and valleys and the towns and farms in the flood plains in between. In the towns and villages we drive through we spot some very fine old houses with multiple rooves and courtyards and manicured gardens glimpsed behind the high walls. Our hotel is mostly full of older Japanese and Chinese tourists and rather bizarrely a youth Brazilian football team. No wifi and you pay your bill when you arrive.

On Tuesday nights the boys want to go to Kobe to eat. Our Japanese team member knows Kobe well having started his first job here. As we wander up and down the side streets sizing up the many restaurants he explains that the quieter ones are for dating while the noisy ones host groups of businessmen. "I went on many blind dates around here before I met my wife" he tells us.

We settle on a fish restaurant on a second floor. As we come in a group of business are heading out. Japanese guide explains that some of them will go home while others head off for 'round 2' in some bar. Eventually the stragglers will be seen going home, ties around their heads like bandanas, on the last train. If they miss that they will sleep at the bar or maybe try the capsule hotel. The waitress shows us into our private room with low table and cushions. My heart sinks as I dread sitting cross legged for two hours but then find that there is a well under the table where your legs hang down. Phew. The food is excellent with sashimi, cooked dishes and a 'barbeque brick' for grilling sardines.

At the end of March the cherry blossom is just starting to come out - sakura season. In a week or two the tourists sites will be packed with local and overseas visitors. We make a diversion on the way to work on Wednesday morning to visit Sasayama castle. This 17thC fortress with impressive moats and walls was built by Tokogawa and used to establish dominance over the warlords of western Japan. It is a chilly morning with flurries of snow. The cherry blossom is not quite ready but the place is still impressive with a backdrop of hills.

Before I leave Japan I spend a night in Osaka so that I can see my nephew who has been living in Japan for the past six months. The first half of his stay was spent working on organic farms in various parts of Japan and he managed to learn a lot of the language. He is now learning to cook and shortly to start working in a restaurant and I was very impressed when he ordered us dinner is a small Osaka restaurant - all in Japanese including asking the chef about the seasonal dishes that were available. Well done Will.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip ...