Thursday, June 29, 2006 

Nihon: Makan Culture

I am not a fan of sushi. I don’t do da raw thang. I like my food very dead and very cooked thankyouverymuch.

So I was plesantly surprised to learn Japan has a lot of piping-hot cooked dishes.

Hearty eaters will be pleased know Shabu-shabu (steamboat with thinly sliced beef) is fantastic. It’s very popular thing for restaurants to charge a sum somewhere between Y1500 - Y 2500 (RM50 - RM70++) for a 90 minutres-all-you-can-eat buffet. Pay more and you get special beef platter or extend your deadline to 120 minutes.

Aside from Shabu-shabu (soup), there’s the pan version (fry) and the grilled version (bbq) where you cookyour food over cute lil’ charcoal cubes with holes in the middle.

Bonnie & Clyde being pigs, we did all 3.

There are also fast food outlets where you buy your food coupons from vending machines, present your food tickets to the vendor and get your food all within 5 minutes. The Japs give new meaning to fast food.

During hectic work days, a quick lunch is in order. Eating at restaurants means taking the public transport or brave through the Tokyo jams. What’s a busy employee to do? Lunch stork style and eat standing up. I thought I took a picture of the fuss-free table-less food vendors...oh sod it.

If you are a fan of seafood, then the Spider Crab is a must-try. If I am not mistaken, it costs RM150++ per crab in sunny Malaysia. We had ours at Osaka for Y3000+ (RM100); a whole Spider Crab cooked in 3 styles; tempura, shashimi, sushi and self-grilled over a mini stove of charcoals. It was heavenly, with the rain and cold night air outside while we sit cross-legged and filled our tummies in a quaint lil’ eatery with a doorway so low you gotta stoop to get in. Oishii-des!

Being the jakun, I didn’t know sea rambutan (urchin) could be eaten raw until I watched Lost. We had our first bite at a seafood wet market. It was wet and soft and slippery, and not at all delicious to me while Clyde had a ball. We also sampled freshly grilled Hotate (scallop). The flesh tasted sweet and fishy. Me likey. Clyde also did a sashimi number served by true sushi senseis.

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Pepper Lunch: My favourite makan place. Unlike KL, the hotplate really sizzles and the beef was red and raw

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Spider Crab feast

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90 Minutes buffet in Kobe

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Jap fast food chain

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Shaka-shaka potato: What a relief to see the familiar golden arches

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Shabu-shabu 90 min buffet in Shinjuku

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Giving a whole meaning to ‘sandwiches’

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Preserved raw seafood from Isetan, Kobe

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What the sicko Clyde bought

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Roe, roe, roe your boat

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Aquarium or menu?

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No, this is not part opf the menu but a shop owner’s pet


Nihon: Buy, Buy, BUY!

There is shopping and then there is shopping.

Shopping for things you need is one thing.

Shopping for things you don’t need is another.

Shopping for things you did not know existed is... something else.

Everything which is something is sold by someone somewhere.

Here are some of the stuff I did not know is ‘buyable’:

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• Katanas / Swords ala Blade of the Immortal / Samurai X
You could actually decorate your home with these exquisite swordsmanship or hack someone with it if you manage to smuggle them across our immigration officers.

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• Brain Holiday
Yay! I’ll never be bored again! The base is actually a round magnet while you mould and shape the itty bitty metal pieces to form whatever. Excellent entertainment value.

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• Stuffed Animals (and I don’t mean the polyester type)
Need some macho shit to cheer up your wussy homes? There’s nothing like stuffed polar bear for the living room and a wildcat for the bedroom to do the job (pun intended)! This pic is of a genuine 7’ tall polar bear wrapped up in plastic with only the snout exposed. We also spotted whole crocodiles, sea turtles, wildcat, puffer fish, white tiger and deer head. Go figure. Can someone please tell me if it is fake? They do look like the museum variety to me. Eww.

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• Toilet Sound Camouflage Thingy (dunno what’s the proper term)
Do not underestimate this small speaker-like thingy found in every toilet. Upon placing your derriers on the toilet seats, sounds of water gushing in rivers is produced to soothe and calm your senses. It aslo acts as a ploy to camouflage any embrassing audio in the long process.

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• Role-Playing Costumes
Costumes like these are quite common and on sale everywhere.

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• Bookmarks
Interesting bookmarks. It is said the faces are left blank because everyone with different emotions will view them with different feelings. Something like that.

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• Sandalwood Figurine
Can you believe this carving which is about 7” in height costs Y15,000 (RM3000++).

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• Masks
Noh, Tengu, etc. Not for the faint hearted. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Clyde, I have forbidden him to purchase and display any in our boudoir.

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• Wind Chimes
Oooh my favourite be it metal, wood or glass. Due to eMAS airlines luaggage limit, I could only buy 1 piece.

• The Thumb Thing
Pic not available. It’s a ring thingy with spikes on both ends so when you wear it on your thumb, voila, you could hold a book with one hand and the pages would automatically open for your reading pleasure while your other hand is busy, probably holding the train poles.

Friday, June 23, 2006 

Thank you. No, thank you.

Many have been talking about this survey done by Reader's Digest recently (

Many felt insulted because Malaysia's ranking is so low, second to the last position amongst Asia countries.

Many, too, agree and accept the result; at the same time listing out reasons why our nation's ranking is so low. Critisizing our own fellow Malaysians, while forgetting they're part of us. Many think Malaysians are not courteous, except themselves.


Well, I have done my share of holding the elevator door, expressing my gratitude etc. I, too, have my time of letting our the four-letter-word, avoiding eye contact with people.

So, am I courteous?

I do not know. Most probably I am in the rank-30-something kinda person.

What really interest me or keep me pondering is, what's the meaning of courtesy?

New York, a city with the rank of top 3 (I think is No.1) in this survey, is also one of United States highest crime rate city; a city probably where the word "fuck" repeated the most time in the world.

I used to be an intern in Chicago and my boss is a guy who always open doors for others, says "thank you" when being served in restaurant. Is he a courteous person? At least I know when he drives, people probably he'll be smiling at, if he was on foot, would suddenly all become bitches or cunts who deserve nothing else besides being fucked.

All the other bosses too. In our own meeting room, when they're on their nerves, lower level trash like myself would be insulted by words; from our personality, physical, and even some of my family members.

Again, what's courtesy?

Macmillan English Dictionary: Politeness, especially formal politeness in social.

So, I guess I was wrong. Since young, I have been seeing the word "polite" being paired with the word "kindness". I had been mixing both together. I thought politeness at least should at least means a little kindness. However, now it seems like probably I was wrong, and, very wrong.

Being kind will somehow makes one courteous. But being courteous can be solely on surface.

So, as myself, does when we don't say "thank you very much" when we don't mean it make us a bunch with no courtesy?Or should we, to the person who just, consciously or unconsciously, showed us that we are inferior to them, start treating them as they've just save our lives?

Well, for money probably I will. This's because with money it's easier to be courteous. Rational? Bad mood not easy to be courteous. When bad mood, hire somebody, use them to release tension, or even fire them. Mood turns good. Mood good, can smile to people, thank them for their service, and be a very courteous person.

I remember a fellow colleague in Chicago. He's also an intern from Michigan State University. Once our family members were being insulted by the cd (which I do not know whether the person should be my son or my mother; he called us "motherfuckers"), he said something like this, "....yes, we shouldn't say sorry. Thank you for letting us learn an important lesson....". I was pretty amazed. After the cd left the room, while I was starring at him, he looked back, "That fuckhead! I'm gonna ram his wife's ass for ya and I, alright?" I don't know why he said this and how he do it, or even whether he did it or not (After I left, there're really some gossips).

So courtesy?

Thank you. No, thank YOU.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 

Nihon: Of Geishas and Gion

Wish we spent more time here.

Fact is, we wasted a lot of time checking in and out of hotels. for our 2D/1N trip.

About 45 minutes ride on the Shinkansen from Osaka, Kyoto is a quaint little cultural town, probably the only place you can ever spot a geisha. Contrary to popular beliefs, geishas do not walk around Gion wearing expensive silk kimonos and elaborate waxed hairdos while holding pretty little paper umbrellas all the damn time. In fact, geisha-spotting is so scarce it's disappointing. Plus, they do not entertain gaijin like you and me. You probably have to be a local big shot and pay a hefty sum to have one accompanying you for a dance or theater outing.

We got our share of ogling by purchasing Geisha Dance tickets at Y2200 (RM70++) a pop. You get a tea ceremony package by paying up to Y4,500 (RM146.25). Being el cheapos, we stuck to the basics. Heh.

They came, they sang, they danced their way into our hearts.

Of course we did not understand a single word but it's art, beb. Culture.

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Even the longkang is a tourist attraction

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Some broad trying to seduce another’s hubby

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Monday, June 12, 2006 

Nihon: Pout Please

Coz the sign says so...

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Nihon: Cars Are For The Filthy Rich

For those of us who complain about expensive parking fares in Sunny Malaysia, check this out.

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Translation: Y400 (RM13) per hour, Y2200 (RM70++) per day. It doesn’t say it here, but it’s usually Y100 (RM3++) for first 10 minutes. That’s standard parking rates.

Friday, June 09, 2006 


Sometimes I wonder am I a very demanding person, or at least I am really bad in judging who I should be making request from.

Anyway, the result is always disappointing.

The story is: during our stay in Japan, we visited Universal Studio in Osaka. After a day filled with fun and thrill, we walked pass this store noticing there were three artists drawing potrait for a fee. Their drawing styles were all displayed on a wall behind them. Bonnie and I decided to get our picture drawn. So we went ahead and checked out the artists' drawing style.

The first one would beautify the person he draw; perfect skin complexion, bright and "romantic" colors, making it looks like the cover of some teenage love novel.

The second one would draw you in a deformed manner: Big head with small body, and over-enhance the details and size of your eyes.

The third one seemed most normal: like a very cartoonish potrait.

Supposedly we would skip the third one immediately, but I realised among most of his ordinary cartoon styles, the third artist also display some potrait with a very unique and, if I would call it, hard to accept by the general public kinda style.

It's a style with many scattered lines and strokes, looks pretty messy and with no sense organisation. Some strokes, on first glance, even looked like were from amatuers. Overall it looks like it was a doodle with lots of "irresponsible" details.

I, immediately decided I wanted that particular artist to draw us. Bonnie did warned me that the few pieces might not be from the same artist I wanted to hire because they were totally different from what he was drawing at that time. Clyde being one stubborn ass refuse to take the advise and insist to communicate with him.

Well, communication in Japan has a minimum requirement; which is to be able to speak in their language. As a result, due to my persistent, we started to try various ways to get our request understood: (If you are an unpatient person, basically can skip the following part)

We talked to the artist, blurred face; we talked to the sales girls beside, she could speak some english; but when come to drawing style, blurred face. Well, at least she's kind enough to try talking to the artist. The artist nodded. We happy, sit down and let hime draw. But when we saw his first layer sketches, it was wrong. We started to talk to the artist again, pointing to the picture on the wall. Blurred face. Talked to girl, girl talked to artist, artist nodded. Started draw again. Wrong. Skipped the artist, talked to girl. Girl talked to Artist. This time artist got frustrated and showed confusion; talked back to girl. Girl tried to explain to us but not enough words in her volcab. We talked to girls again, girl looked at artist, artist starred back. Girl went to look for manager. Manager came, we explained to manager. Manager half blur. Manager talked to artist. Artist talked back. Manager nodded. Then, manager told us, "everything will be fine." I know we had reached a point of no return.

Anyway, I must say that despite of so much trouble we created for him, the artist did continue his job in a very professional manner. Besides drawing the picture, he tried to give some compliments using his limited english volcab; like when he was drawing Bonnie, he kept saying "Kawaii", and he gave compliment on my shoulder and body.

Suddenly, I just felt so much respect on him. Besides just drawing his picture, he also tried to lighten atmosphere so that his customer would feel easier and more relax. At least he tried to make the whole experience a pleasant one and not seeing his job as merely drawing a picture. I do not know how sincere he was, but at least he let me see professionalism in him.

At least, this positive feeling did soothed my feeling when I got the fianl drawing.

It was all wrong.

Clyde's self potrait
*This is the kind of style I was hoping for*


11 Days

There’s always one thing I have that conflicts with my parents: The fascination for Japan. This’s pretty reasonable for those who have experience the WWII.

As for me, a Chinese-ed who grew up during the 80’s TVB Solid Gold era, I am almost can be called a fetishist of Japan culture.

Hence, this 12-day-Osaka n Tokyo-trip.

It’s also fortunate that Bonnie likes Japanese style stuff too, though she is purely English educated. Actually I am still amaze that she is actually quite “cina” in this area (Somebody’s idol, besides NKOTB, is Alan Tam. Oops, am I exposing too much about our age?)

So after taking this almost sinful 12-day-leave, and RM18,000 emptier in my bank account, what do we obtain from Japan? Internal injury and pain on our feet; and tons of good memories.

It’s only the second day, we were already suffering tremendous foot pain due to endless shopping and walking. I remember while we were applying Yoko-Yoko in our hotel room, I told Bonnie, “This is not Hong Kong; we still have 11 days more to go.” She just smile. I know she’s looking forward to all those pain, sweat, walking, exploring, and shopping. Suddenly I realized God have been treating us so well.

So the following days routine was like that: Shopping and walking, from morning till at least 8pm; then moaning and applying Yoko Yoko in hotel room at night, while reading Lonely Planet to plan for the next day’s itinerary.

All these happened, and repeated itself.

For 11 days.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 

Nihon: The Kawaii Culture

Japan is the epitome of cuteness. Everything comes with a mascot.

Brands, restaurant signages, government logos and even public service messages are oh-so-cute.

Bottled water, snacks, lunch boxes, household products and everything else comes with a lil' toy, hand phone strap or key chain. Or at the very least, a cute logotype with sweet colours to boot. Even the plants are so kawaii des!

If the exchange rates wasn't such a killer I would have bought everything in sight!


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1st pic I took. Is it just me or does the flowers even look different?

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Check out the heart-shaped cactus!

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Restaurant signage

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Puffer fish promotion signboard

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Takoyaki: legendary delicacy turned brand merchandising

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Onigiri/Yakigiri: notice the puny soy sauce bottle that comes with it?



What do I like about Japan?

What is there not to like?

After spending 12 D/ 11N there, I am in love. In love with ever-friendly and ready-for-action civic-minded citizens. The detail on every piece of sweet / cookie wrapper, all bursting to the brim with kawaii-ness. The endless why-didn't-I-think of-it gadgets of all kinds, everything you can ever dream of and create, is available at a sum. The flamboyant fashion sense, always outrageous, always a trend-setter. The breathtaking sceneries, painstakingly preserved to a pristine condition. The tourist-friendly public transport and facilities for nihongo-challenged gaijin like me.

There is just something sooo.... systematic about the country. Not rigid but disciplined. Not stiff but tender. Not overdone but just nice.


Do I sound like a gushing bride?

Yup, Bonnie's mesmerised. And you will never hear the end of it.

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