Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dinner With The Prime Minister

Short note: Here is the update on the dinner with the PM last Tuesday, that most people has been waiting for. Or maybe not? Anyway, I'd advise you guys to prepare some snacks and a drink, because it is gonna be a hell of a long entry!

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It all began when we received an e-mail from the Embassy of Malaysia in Japan, which invited Malaysians students in Japan to attend a dinner with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who was on a four-day (but was later cut-short to three days, because he couldn't wait to turun padang at Ulu Selangor) official visit to Japan. According to the PM in his speech, Japan only invites two countries for official visit in a year, and Malaysia was given the honour to become one of them in 2010.

During his visit, Malaysian students were given chances to be present at the Welcoming Ceremony at the Prime Minister's officeThe Honorary Doctorate presentation ceremony at Meiji University (too bad I had classes on that day, otherwise I would be able to attend this event as well), and also a dinner at New Otani Hotel, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, which was organised by Yayasan Pendidikan MARA and Kelab UMNO Jepun Luar Negara (reference: Ben's entry).

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Ms Oikawa and Ms Chiba, were among the staffs from the embassy who helped out at the reception counter.

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The main hall for the dinner - Tsuru Hall.

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There were sixty tables which could accommodate approximately six-hundred people at one time.

The event was supposed to to start at seven-thirty, but we were asked to be there by five in the evening. We all know that Malaysians will always stick to SMT (Standard Malaysian Time), even when we're in oversea. Cung and I arrived there just a few minutes before six, but that's because I had classes until four, and skipped the last class of the day. Besides, the traveling from Chiba to Tokyo takes at least one hour by train. Familiar faces were seen everywhere in the hall when we arrived. There were some of them whom I have never seen for years too.

After registering our names at the reception counter, we went in and started to mingle and chat before the arrival of the VIPs.

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With my batch mates and newly arrived juniors. 

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Again with my batch mates and the only senior in the picture - Clement.

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I seriously thinks that girls in baju kurung and baju kebaya look really stunning. 

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From left: James, Teck Soon and our super senior, Andrew.

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Chiba University family, plus two intruders from The University of Electro-Communications haha! The guy (forth from the left) is Aizdean
the J-Pop Malaysian singer who just debut his first album in Japan recently. 

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I know that we all love Mr Funahashi a lot! This is one of our rare chances of having the opportunity to have a picture with the person, 
who sends us that magic e-mail (we prefer to call it an e-love letter haha!) at the end of every month.

Okay, here comes the interesting part of the dinner. When I went to register my name, I noticed that my name was circled, and #2 was written next to my name. My first thought was that it might just be some random scribbles made when they were arranging the seating, but I was told that that was gonna be my table number on that night!

Common sense tells you that they numbered the table numbers according to the location in the hall, starting with the main table, which would be occupied by the PM in the front row, and the rest would follow suit. So, I got table #2, which means that I got to sit on the table, just next to the main table. Yes, to be honest, I was a little excited when I knew about that, because this kind of chance doesn't come every day. When I walked to that table, I saw that our seats were already allocated, with our names placed on the table as well. One of the first time I experience the VIP treatment.

A bidan terjun VIP though haha!

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That's my name on the table! Among the VIPs who were seated on table #2 was Acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. OH-MY-GAWD!!

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One of the senior members of the reporter team from RTM.

The most commonly asked question I got on that night before I started talking to most people was, "How come you got to seat there?" Seriously, I have no idea at all. I do not hold any post in Malaysian Students' Association in Japan (MSAJ) or any other similar students' organisation here, and it left me wondering how on earth I ended up being placed on that table.  It could be a technical glitch, I am not sure.

However, I later realised that sitting with the other VIPs wouldn't give you much freedom, say for example, to camwhore around. You wouldn't approach Datuk Rais Yatim and ask him, "Yo Rais, wanna camwhore together?", would you? Haha!

Furthermore, you can no longer eat as freely in whatever way you like, if you get what I mean here. That is why when I was at the reception counter earlier that night, I tried asking Mr Funahashi if I was able to change my table, but he just smiled and say the seats were allocated already. Mr Funahashi realised that I looked a little disappointed for not being able to change my seat. But he was nice enough to make me feel better by telling me that there would be quite a number of VIPs on table #2.

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With Prof. Kogure Koichi and Dr Tachibana Masahiko, both from Shibaura Institute of Technology.

The only person I know personally was Hazeril Mazlan, who is taking a teaching course at Daito Bunka University of Japan. He was seated to my right and the guy on my left was Kogure Koichi. At first, Hazeril and me had no idea who this Japanese guy. We started guessing and the most likely possibility was that he might be some professor from some university. His identity was finally revealed when he gave us his name card.  Kogure Koichi is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shibaura Institute of Technology, who was one of the distinguished guest at the dinner.

Seated next to him was Dr. Tachibana Masahiko, the Vice Chairman of the Malaysia Project Committee from the International Relations Section of Shibaura Institute of Technology, who acted as the interpreter for Prof. Kogure Koichi. Several days after the dinner, I received an e-mail from Dr. Tachibana.

Calvin Ong Kah Yee 様、

メールを下さり、ありがとうございました。

タイピンはこじんまりとした緑あふれるきれいな町で、食べ物も
おいしく、印象的でした。町の名前の由来(昔あの近くで大きな争い
ごとがあり、それを二度と起こさない決意を込めて、太平としたと
聞いています)もいいですね。

何百人も集まる大きなパーティで一緒の席に座るというのは
偶然の結果ですけれども、そういう偶然の結果できた人との繋がり
を日本では「縁(えん)」といって、大切にしています。

ではまた、いつか。

橘 雅彦

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Dr. Tachibana Masahiko and Datuk Rais Yatim, exchanging name cards, while the representative from Alumni Look East Policy Society (ALEPS) looked on.

Before the event began, the MC announced that students should feel left-out because there would be at least one VIP sitting on each tables. Initially, there were about three VIPs on my table, and the rest were students. Guess what happened in the last minute? I think you can roughly tell already what happened.

Technical error occurred and they miscalculated the numbers of VIPs who attended the dinner. Apparently, there was an increase of the number of VIPs coming, and they had no more seats for them. Their solution was by getting rid the students in the front tables, and ask them to find any empty seats in other free-sitting tables behind the hall.

This action is so contradicting to what the MC announced just moments earlier. But this is the reality of life, and  it makes it even clearer that as long as you hold top positions in society, you will always be given that special treatment. I wonder if it's apt for me to label this incident as the "Malaysia Boleh!" spirit. In the end, I was the only student remained on the table, and the rest were I suppose, members of the delegation made up from trade organisations from Malaysia.

I shall leave that incident alone and move back to the dinner. At seven-thirty, the Prime Minister arrived, accompanied by the Dato' Haji Rosli Mat Hassan, the Chairman of Yayasan Pelajaran Malaysia, who was the co-organiser-cum-sponsor of this dinner. But his wife was not with him; we thought she must have gone to Ginza for last minute shopping, since they was returning to Malaysia on that night itself.

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There were so many bodyguards flanking the Prime Minister, as if people was gonna kidnap him haha! This is after all, 
a dinner with the students and I wonder if that is necessary. 

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Everyone in the hall sang the national anthem and the 1Malaysia song, while waving the small Jalur Gemilang. It was the first time I heard that 1Malaysia song!

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TYT Y.Bhg. Dato' Shaharuddin Md. Som, the Malaysia Ambassador to Japan giving his welcoming speech. The bodyguard on the left looked so stressed lol!

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The three VIPs on the stage, as the Prime Minister was brain-storming for his speech later on.

I guess everyone can read the speech of the Prime Minister through the media, but like Ben mentioned in his entry, it is more on how we convey his original speech. Certainly, the media interpreted his speech from a different perspective. We all know how the local media works, but having attended an event, and later reading what's reported in the news, I guess I would rather spend my time counting the ants in my house, than reading the news anymore lol!

The dinner was supposed to be with the Malaysian students, but the headlines the next day was "Najib slams those who spread lies to confuse people", in reference to the Ulu Selangor by-election.

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The headline reported in the newspaper on the next day.

Minimal mention was made about the dinner and it seemed that the media was more interested about the by-election.

Yes, the Prime Minister mentioned a little bit about politics in his speech, which we all had seen it coming. But I personally don't see the need to give a mention on such topic during an occasion which was organised for students; but it's politics everywhere, even in Japan.

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The Prime Minister, delivering his speech.

I am more interested to mention on other things he shared with us during his speech. Well, the Prime Minister wanna let us know that we should be proud of being Malaysians; being one of the 47 countries invited to the Nuclear Security Summit, being one out of nine countries who had bilateral talks with President Obama, and being one of the two countries being invited by Japan for official visit, etc., which all these shows that Malaysia is recognised around the world.

He also touched on wanting Malaysians to be competitive globally, which wasn't mentioned at all by the media, and advised students the three important things of studying oversea (reference: Ben's entry).

1. Master the knowledge (be it engineering or social science);
2. Brush up personality (have the right balance in IQ and EQ);
3. Gain quality education (learn the right things).

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The Prime Minister receiving a souvenir from the Chairman of Yayasan Pelajaran MARA. Dr Tachibana Masahiko, who was sitting on my right, told me that to the Japanese, it is weird and inappropriate to present such stuff on such occasion, unless you are a family member of that person you're presenting to lol! That traditional Japanese military helmet is called kabuto, usually bought when there is a boy being born into a family, and also for expressing the hope that each boy in the family will grow up healthy and strong. It isn't cheap at all because it could fetch up to a few thousands of ringgit. Maybe the price was the reason he picked that kabuto as a souvenir.

He also mentioned about his admiration on the precision of the Japanese society and no other people in this world would be able to beat them on this aspect. In his visits to other nations, the program was just several pages, but when he was in Japan, he was given a detailed-encyclopedia-like program, which was a few inches thick lol! On another occasion, during his meeting with Emperor Akihito, he was given a briefing sessions and was told how to bow, shake hands and other protocols before the meeting.

One interesting part was when they told him that the reporters would exit the room one minute thirty seconds after he entered the room to meet the Emperor. Imagine that; one minute and thirty seconds. Back home, we would just say, "lebih kurang dua, tiga minit", isn't it? That is why he wants us to take away the "lebih kurang" (about, roughly) mentality from our vocabulary, and replace it with "tepat" (exactly).

His speech was getting longer and longer. Finally, after almost an hour listening to his speech, we finally had our dinner served.

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A shamisen performance accompanied the dinner.

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The main table of the dinner reception.

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This was the table I was sitting on that night. Datuk Rais Yatim's wife was missing as well; perhaps she was busy joining Datin Rosmah shopping too haha!

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Some of the VIPs on table #2.

I guess most of you guys are more interested to see what was the dish served during the dinner, rather than the faces of the VIPs, no? Haha! So, here are the dishes five-course dinner with the Prime Minister of Malaysia. I guess all of them were French cuisine, but I'm pretty sure most of us there would have preferred authentic Malaysian food haha!

A five-course dinner consisting of nasi lemak, roti canai, fried koey teow, laksa, and nasi kerabu. How tempting would that be lol!

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Chilled Homard Lobster and Mango Carpaccio Caviar.

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Mellow Creamy of Pumpkin Soup with Vanilla Flavour.

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Scallops and Shellfish a la Nage with Grow Spring Vegetables.

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Fillet of Red Mullet with Crispy Scales Eggplant Confit and Green Sauce.

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Various of Melon with Milk Ice Cream.

How was it? Well, I still prefer if they'd served us with Malaysian food lol!

During the dinner, I hardly chatted with any of the VIPs on the table, mainly because I find them not really that friendly; a far cry from the First Lady of Japan, Hatoyama Miyuki. I guess that shouldn't be something very surprising at all. I spent most of the time chatting with Prof. Kogure Koichi and Dr. Tachibana Masahiko.

I found out that Dr. Tachibana spent about eight years in Malaysia before this and I was kinda surprised that he knows the existence of Taiping. In fact, he has gone to Taiping before and when I asked him where did he visited during his visit, it wasn't the Taiping Zoo, but he went there to taste the famous laksa in Kuala Sepetang!

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With Datuk Seri Rais Yatim and his wife, plus another unknown VIP lol!

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It was time for the Prime Minister to leave the hall, and everyone was pushing and shoving, trying to shake hands with him.

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I told Wee Kien that I'm selling this photo for ¥2,000 if he is interested haha!

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It was supposed to be a majlis ramah mesra with the students, but we didn't get a chance to really bermesra with the Prime Minister lol!

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This was the most we got - a smiling session with the Prime Minister, instead of having a dialogue session with him lol!

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A group shot after the dinner. (Picture credit: Haris)

This might make some people jealous but believe it or not, we were paid to attend this dinner!

Haha, no-lah. Perhaps it wasn't the right way to say it. I mean, our transportation were also sponsored by Yayasan Pelajaran MARA. But one thing I couldn't understand is that Cung got paid more although we are living in the same house. Funny, isn't it? I wasn't satisfied and will be asking him to treat me to a meal next time lol!

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¥4,560 for two-ways train trip between Chiba and Tokyo.

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The menu of the dinner. It isn't mine, because Ben and I accidentally took back the wrong bags home. I took his, and he took mine lol!

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The rest of the stuff inside the goodie bag, which includes a CD from Aizdean, coat pin, note books, program booklet, sardine dalam sos cili (lol!) and a pot of orchid.

That poor pot of orchid currently decorates my toilet at home haha!

8 comments:

Tempus said...

JEALOUS LAAAAAAAA... dang u are one lucky boy man~ unlike me, still have to sit for muet over here in msia

CLF said...

hahahah but maybe the ministers them are bored of M'sian food alrdy so they wanna try something new?
but given the expenses all are covered, quite a great experience eh.

kae vin said...

lol sitting with the cakap orang puteh minister. XD

he didn't say cakap orang sumarai a? :P

Too bad you haven't had the chance to have a personal photo with bijan XD

calvin said...

@ tempus:
your time will come. just be patient, alright?
all the best in your muet!

calvin said...

@ clf:
i'm not sure who was the one responsible in deciding the menu but then, i still prefer malaysian food (i know i have been repeating this for infinity times lol!)

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
i knew it. i knew that you guys will start to ejek me when the pictures of me with him is posted up. i don't think he knows how to cakap orang samurai; the most he knows should be just ajinomoto and doraemon lol!

or maybe not, because he might prefer watching keluang man haha!

let me tell you something. he was speaking in bahasa orang puteh with those vips on my table the whole night . that is how much he contradicted himself sigh =\

by the way, who is bijan?

Roshmi Sinha said...

Very well narrated... even though I wasn't able to view the pics.

"We all know that Malaysians will always stick to SMT (Standard Malaysian Time), even when we're in oversea."

Ha! Ha!

Here in India we have the "Indian Standard Time (IST)

or the "Indian Stretchable Time" :)

calvin said...

@ roshmi sinha:
hi! nice to see you leaving a comment here again!

i guess it has to do with the internet connection, for your inability to view the pictures. anyway, i love the term IST a lot! i never knew that the indians like to stretch their time like the malaysians too haha!

that is why the prime minister mentioned in his speech that it is hard for anyone from other countries to beat the japanese, when it comes to punctuality and precision.