Monday, March 29, 2010

House Warming Party

Short note: It is gonna be April in a couple of days and guess what? It snowed in Chiba tonight! I guess we need to have Earth Hour as often as every month from now onwards, to cure the sick Earth.
Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been busy going out for continuous days this week, that even Michelle has said to me that I hardly spend time with her lately. I know it is hard on the relationship, but I guess everything should be fine.
Anyway, back to the main topic of this entry, there were two house warming parties in my new place over the week. The first one was almost a week ago, when Shei Pien and Cliff came over to our place. Shei Pien crashed over here for several days before returning to Kanazawa, as she had just returned from Malaysia. As for Cliff, he came over because we planned to go Disneyland together on the next day. But unfortunately, the plan to visit Mickey and friends was canceled at the last minute, due to the bad weather, and also because we woke up at eleven on that morning haha!
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The menu for the first party.
The reason of me writing down the menu is because I was afraid I would forget what I planned to cook haha wtf! If you know me well enough, then you should know that I have this tendency to forget things quickly. Very quickly, in fact lol!
Nasi lemak didn't make it into the menu in the end, because of time factor, and also because I couldn't find coconut milk in the supermarket.
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Fried mee hoon, curry chicken, gyoza, and fried rice which was a failed case 'coz the rice turned out to be almost like porridge haha!
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Shei Pien, with the bear family lol! She went for a kimono test-wear-cum-photography session earlier that day, which explains why her hair look more beautiful than usual.
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The group picture, taken before we attacked the food. See, we are damn patriotic-lor, got hang the Jalur Gemilang on the wall some more haha!
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Three of us were busy surfing the net, while Cliff had no choice but to watch the TV haha wtf!
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The two sampats, holding their soft toys, Skyping with each other from a distance of less than one meter haha wtf!
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The desert of the night, from Harbs nearby Shinjuku, sponsored by Shei Pien.
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Desert-cutting session.
The next morning, we woke up and it was super cold. The rain, which started since the previous night, didn't stop and as it was almost noon already, we reluctantly canceled our Disneyland plan. Yes, there goes my childhood dreams - to visit Disneyland sigh. Double sigh.
To make up for that, I used up the ingredients I found in the kitchen, and came out with these.
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French toast, topped with cheese, to go with teh tarik on a chilly morning. Damn best!
Did I say there were two parties? Yes, since it is so cold lately, I think we ought to do as many house warming parties as possible, to make the house warmer haha wtf! So, two days later, we decided to have another makan session. This time however, there were only three of us, as Cliff has gone back to his place in Saitama. Shei Pien was supposed to go out to meet her friend in Tokyo, but her friend put airplane on her at the eleventh hour haha! Hence, she returned home and both of us went out to buy the ingredients for that night's party in the afternoon.
This time, there were slightly more food than the first party. Five types of dishes; so, it's actually just one dish more than the first party haha. But then, there were two rounds of deserts. Haha, lesser people, but more food. Typical Malaysians; nobody will beat us when it comes to food lol!
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Menu for the second party. This was cincai-ly written down actually, after we finished cooking.
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Tom yam sweet and sour prawns, harumaki (Japanese spring roll), Oyster sauce spice chicken, fried butter potatoes, bean sprout with hot moyashi sauce from Ippudo.
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Banana, wrapped in spring roll's skin, and then deep-fried, by Shei Pien. Japanese style pisang goreng, perhaps?
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Sakura jelly, clover honey pudding and cheese tarts.
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A group photo before makan session started.
We are currently planning to do a third party, and anyone who is interested to join, please drop us a line thank you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Outing With Cliff & Ming Han

Short note: It rained for THREE-continuous days, non-stop here. Damn crazy, I tell you. I know Japanese people are famous for their long life, but it seems that the rain in Japan has long life too! Damn cold some more. Made us no mood to go out at all. Fortunately, the rain subsided last night and the weather should be good for the whole week, if the weather forecast predicted it accurately. I see the sun this morning, for the first time in three days!
While most of my batch mates are currently busy moving to new places and settling their many kinds of applications, I have pretty much done with mine and hence, I take the chance to go around several places in Tokyo before school starts next month. Four days ago, after a few times of planning, canceling, and re-plannings, I finally met up with Cliff and his friend, Ming Han. Cliff is a Malaysian who studies in Tokyo, and happen to read my blog for several months already. As for Ming Han, he's from Penang, and was asked by Cliff to join us during this outing.
We initially planned to meet up at the Hard Rock Cafe inside JR Ueno Station, but he changed to location to the tickets counter of the station. Once I reached there, I tried to locate both of them and thanks to my height, I managed to see them from afar. Despite my giraffe height, neither of them notice me; so, I picked up my phone and called Cliff, while walked towards their direction. I was already standing behind Cliff when he asked about my whereabouts.
I said to him, "Look behind" while giving him a tap on the shoulder, and he was instantly stunned to see a grey giraffe haha!
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Had lunch at Kassen Ichiba, located along the back alley of Ameyoko (アメ横).
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北海丼 (Hokkai-don), which has topping consisting of hotate (scallop), salmon, ika (squid) with tobiko (fish roe), tamago-yaki (Japanese omelet), kani (crab). It comes with a bowl of miso soup and tsukemono (I suspect it's bamboo shoot with some sauce), which was superb!
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With Ming Han and Cliff in front of the restaurant. Had an ang moh to take this picture for us.
We spent some time for a simple get-to-know-each-other and brief chit-chatting session, before leaving the restaurant. Got a train guide - "Tokyo Universal Train System" from Cliff, which looks more like an astronomy map haha! Well, we all know the train system in Tokyo is one of the most, if not the most complicated systems in the world.
Nothing much to look around Ameyoko, as it was more or less similar to Petaling Street in KL, minus the fake goods though. So, we headed to the nearby Ueno Park for sight-seeing.
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Local artists sitting along the staircase which leads to the park.
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An American old-timer, who speaks some Japanese, performing with a wooden puppet and a harmonica.
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A koban with an interesting design inside the park.
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Sakura flower bud.

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It's still a tad too early for hanami (sakura sight-seeing), as the weather has been quite cold these few days. But these people just could wait any longer to picnic under the sakura trees.
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Bridal photo shot at the park, although the flowers haven't really bloom yet. But if you look properly, there's something not right about the location of the shooting.
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Why would someone stand in front of this rubbish collection spot for wedding photograph? Lol!
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These two pigeons were having their lovey-dovey affair on the branch, while the poor third party could only look from behind haha!
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Not the best scenery to take pictures yet, but I guess I will be returning to the same place in a week's time.
While walking around the park, we noticed a crowd building up at one spot, and being typical busybody Malaysians, we quickly walked there to see what's going on. There is a Japanese traditional tea-ceremony going on, conducted by some volunteers. It was opened for everyone to experience it for free. There was this elderly uncle who was really friendly and he kept inviting people who wished to try it to step onto the tatami mat, before being served with the green tea.
This isn't my first time experiencing the tea ceremony, nevertheless, since it didn't cost anything, why not give it a try, right?
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Not only the locals joined the ceremony, as we noticed there were quite some number of foreigners who took part as well.
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Ladies and little kids in kimono serving the visitors with green tea.
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The ryoku-cha (緑茶) or green tea, which I think is a bit diluted and not as bitter as I have tasted before. The white thingy is a Japanese buah guli (pebbles) haha! No-lah, it's actually a sweet candy, taken before we drink the tea.

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Sitting in the seiza position while sipping the bowl of tea, to make it looked more Japanese. Cliff asked me to drink it slowly when he took this shot lol!
We continued our walk towards the zoo side of the park and came to the Toshogu Shrine (東照宮), one of the widely known Sinto shrines in Japan. Toshogu Shrines are found throughout Japan, and the most famous one is located in Nikko, which I visited a couple of years ago.
Too bad this one in Ueno Park is closed for maintenance and repair until the end of 2013.
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This shrine is one of the Important Cultural Properties of Japan (重要文化財), items judged to be of particular importance to the Japanese people.
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The path that leads to the shrine, with stalls selling various kinds of food, for the upcoming hanami season.
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Small wooden plaques, called ema (絵馬) for people to write down their prayers and wishes.
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Huge lanterns made of copper at the compound of the shrine.
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The main shrine is currently covered with renovation sheets until the renovation work is done by the end of 2013.
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A statue of Prince Komatsu Akihito in one section of Ueno Park.
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Ueno Children's Park.
Ueno Park is also where Ueno Zoo, the oldest and most well-known zoo in Japan is located.
I haven't been into the zoo yet, so I cannot compare whether it is better than Taiping Zoo. Price wise, it isn't that expensive (¥600 for adults) but having grown up in a town which is most famous for its zoo, I doubt the elephant in Japan is any different from the one in Malaysia; unless the elephant in Japan has ten legs, which is quite impossible haha!
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The huge crowd lining up at the entrance of Ueno Zoo. It was a public holiday on that day and the crowd was bigger than usual days.

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This forest surely has a lot of water (ayer means "water" in Malay) haha!
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Posing in front of a green gorilla and panda.
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Tokyo National Museum, Japan oldest and largest museum.
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This trick performer, named Kobayashi who apparently has won a few national juggling competitions.
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The crowd were amazed to see his great balance with the yellow rings.
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Challenging himself with six rings at once.
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Spectators from all ages, chipping in some contributions after the performance, something which is quite rare to see in Malaysia. Back home, once the performer finished performing, the crowd will disperse in a matter of seconds.
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A huge stone lantern, also called the "monster lantern" because of its gigantic size.
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Bald trees with the blue sky as the background.
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Passed by another temple in the park.
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A rare sight to see a stone-plate with Romanised characters in Japan.
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Ming Han said how nice it would be if we could cook these into Peking roasted ducks lol!
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A reminder for the visitor not to feed the ducks in the pond.
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Otherwise, the ducks will grow too fast and die.
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The interesting thing about this picture is the white birds, who is lining up on each wooden poles, just like how the Japanese who obey to the social rules in public.
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Three stooges by the pond.
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One of the few sakura trees which has started to bloom.
After we spent a good couple of hours at the park, we moved to the next destination - Ochanomizu. We wanted to take the train initially, but later realised that it is located quite near to Ueno Park. So, we decided to walk there, with the help from Ming Han's iPhone. Everything went smoothly at first, but I started to smell something fishy once Ming Han took us into small lanes.
We however, trusted his directions, only for him to repay our trust by taking us into this steep staircase haha wtf!
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We took a risk and climbed up that staircase.
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Continued walking, this time aided with a map from Cliff. As for me, I just followed both of them, because I'm sure nobody dares to let me lead the way after my poor sense of directions lately made me lost for two times already haha!
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Finally, we reached our destination - Kanda Shrine.
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Lanterns made of paper, hung around the shrine.
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Shops selling amulets and souvenirs.
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Statue of the God of Fortune.
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Walked a little further and reach Yushima Seido, a Confucian temple in Ochanomizu.
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Something rare to see a temple coated with black paint.
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Paperweights in various animal shapes.
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Ochanomizu Station, taken from Hijiri Bridge over the Kanda River, looking towards Akihabara. 
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Holy Resurrection Cathedral, a.k.a. Nicholai-do, Tokyo is the main cathedral of the Japanese Orthodox Church.
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The Bible is written in Japanese, while the cross is kinda different from the normal one.
An untoward incident happened at this church, which was partly due to our carelessness. We didn't notice the notice that stated that anyone who wishes to enter the church to perform worship service is required to pay for an entrance fee. It was only after we stepped into the church, that a lady asked us to the reception counter and pointed to that notice. We explained that we were there just to visit the church and not for religious purpose, besides, of so many churches I have been to, there is no such thing as an entrance fee. But she insisted us to pay for the entrance fee.
We got into a little argument with the lady when she realised we are able to speak English, and the part which I felt uncomfortable is when she mentioned that all Malaysians and Koreans are like that (as in to wonder into the church and refuse to pay for the entrance fee). After realising that we're not gonna gain anything by continuing to argue with her, we left the place. No matter it is a church, a mosque or a temple, they are all religious places and I don't understand why there must be an entrance fee. Talking about commercialism, even at places of worships.
To Christians out there who might feel offended, I am not against any religion, but I am just making a general statement about that lady from that church. No bad feelings, please.
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The night's dinner was at Sato Tsukemen, a specialised shop which serves only tsukemen.
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My set of 辛ごまつけ麺 (kara-goma tsukemen), or spicy sesame tsukemen, which I later noticed that this set is popular among girls =.=

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Neon lights decorating the buildings at Akihabara at night.
We later stopped at Akihabara, the paradise for someone who loves electronic gadgets.
First stop was at Apple Store as Ming Han wanted to check out some MacBooks there. We later moved to Yodobashi Camera to grab some electrical stuff, before leaving for home at nine plus. It was an interesting outing, although it was just the first time we met with each other.
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Spotted this at Akihabara Station.
Anyone has any idea what's this?