Thursday, April 29, 2010

Language Of The World

Short note: I was in the International Students' room yesterday afternoon, when I heard a group of Chinese students at one corner bad-mouthing the Malaysians students. They were complaining among themselves that the mouses (haha! you don't call the plural of computer's mouse as mice, do you?) and keyboards were oily, and I overheard them saying it must have come from the Malaysians. Walao-eh, the room is used by so many international students, and they suka-suka put the blame on us! They did it without realising I was listening to every single word coming out from their mouth. Perhaps they didn't know I am a Malaysian, and I understand what they were talking haha!

I just pretended to be ignorant and continued doing my work, but at the same time, I paid full attention to their conversation by letting both of my elephant ears open to hear to what they got to say about us lol! That is why it is really important to make sure you check the surrounding before talking bad about other people, especially in front of Malaysians because we understand almost any languages you speak haha! Otherwise you might end up going through an embarrassing moment like what I went through not very long time ago

Okay, this time, the short note is a tad too long lol!

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An interesting modified sign pasted on the room door of one of the lecturers in the international students' room.

There is this class I attend this semester; it's called 世界の言語 or "Language Of The World". The lecturer is Mr Kanno Kenji, and what a humorous lecturer he is. Well, I guess it's the way he talks and the random phrases that come out from his mouth that never fails to make us laugh. Furthermore, he owns a really high-pitch voice, something like soprano voice like that haha!

This general subject is considered one of the hot subjects that is opened to students from all the departments, and there are about 550 students who are taking this subject. That is like five times the normal number of students for a particular subject. One of the reasons is because there isn't any exams and evaluation is based only on reports and survey we have to complete at the end of the semester. Yes, it is that simple, that prompted everyone to take this subject, including me lol!

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Introducing, Mr Kanno Kenji, our favourite lecturer haha!

The first week was the worst because the atmosphere was simply chaotic. Imagine a lecture hall which fits only about two hundred students, but the number of students who wanted to take that subject was more than five hundred students. The remaining students who didn't have place to sit had to remain standing and some even had to wait outside the lecture hall. That is how bad the situation was.

Two weeks had passed, but things still hardly changed. The method on how the lecturer conducts this lecture is very simple. Attend the class every week, and he will distribute the weekly notes for us. After getting the notes, we can balik kampung tanam jagung already haha! That is when something interesting happened yesterday. One students, upon getting the notes, asked Mr Kanno if he can go back already. Guess what he said to that student?

「帰ってもいいですかじゃなくて、帰って下さい!」
"Please don't ask me whether you can go back or not; but please go back!" lol!

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This is how packed the class is. There were still students who were left standing outside the hall.

Pity that poor guy, for getting such statement in front of hundreds of students haha! But that is considered very mild, compared to what another student went through a week ago. Back then, while the lecturer was calling out the numbers to go to the front and take their notes, one of the students mistakenly heard the wrong number. Mr Kanno was calling out for number 139, but that student's number was 239. When he realised that that student held a wrong number, he started to lament and complain in a humourous way, to the few hundreds of students in the hall about that student's cluenessness, for being unable to differentiate between the digit "1" and "2" haha!

He said to the whole class,「この人はね、KYの三乗だ!」haha wtf!
"This fella is really blur, like KY-to-the-power-of-three!"

KY stands for 空気読めない (kuki-yomenai) in Japanese language, a common term used to describe an individual who doesn't know how to read the atmosphere, or in simple word, a clueless person.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

International Students' Welcoming Party

Short note: Tomorrow marks the beginning to the one-week long Golden Week holidays here in Japan. Several plans have been arranged, including some gatherings and trips throughout the week. Yen notes are gonna flow like the Nile from my wallet as well haha! But unfortunately, one of my lecturer is gonna replace a class on Friday afternoon O.O

This is one of the first few events in the university that I attended - a welcoming party for the newly enrolled international students to Chiba University in spring 2010. 

This party was held late yesterday evening at the university's cafeteria and was attended by more than a hundred students and staff, half of them comprising Japanese students. The atmosphere was totally different that my kosen days, where the number of international students back then was just around twenty people. If I heard correctly, the current total number of international students in Chiba University is more than one thousand students. Luckily, not all of them attended the party; otherwise there surely won't be enough space and food to accommodate everyone haha!

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Pay attention on how they spelled the word "chicken". They wrote there "chiken".

I find that the welcoming party I had during my kosen days were much better, in terms of food. Back then, we had almost everything you can find in a Japanese food restaurant, plus the orgasmic deserts. Pardon my language for a moment lol! But I swear, those cakes were really good! Now, we were only served simple food - fried rice, fried chicken, fried potato wedges, salad and drinks. I'm not complaining on this, because the main purpose of this party is to mingle around and know new friends from different countries, and have a good time together.

And what a great time we had; it got to the extend that we got our food stolen by people who came from other table. Yes, you guess it right. Those Chinese from the mainland are sometimes more kiasu than we Malaysians, when it comes to food. Or should I say, free food. Every table was served with an equal amount of food, and I don't understand why should they pay an unfriendly visit to our table and help us to finish up our fried chicken.

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The common language used during the party was of course, Japanese language.

I digress and shall leave the fried chicken story to rest and move on to something more interesting. Well, I find that the Japanese in university are generally more open-minded and friendly when it comes to dealing with the international students, compared to the Japanese in kosen. I am not sure why, perhaps it has to do with their age, since most of the students in the university are in their early twenties already. Besides that, most of them join various international cultural exchange clubs in the university, and that might have changed the way they look at us.

I was quite surprised that before the party started, I was approached by a group of Japanese girls and we started chatting. Personally, I consider that as a huge success because firstly, I am an alien (Japanese generally don't talk to strangers that easily, especially if you're foreigners), and secondly, they ignored the fact that I am such a Godzilla-sized creature and put that fear aside, and came to talk to me haha!

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Lydia from Macedonia, a Brazilian chick, a Chinese boy, a Japanese guy, Tommy from Laos, Sarah from New Orleans in America (she said I look like 24-25 years-old =.=), a Korean and Chinese girls, another Chinese guy and Japanese guy, a Turkish guy in blue jacket and one of the Japanese staff standing at far right.

At least the Japanese in university knows a little about Malaysia, although the first thing that they mentioned about Malaysia was that it produces rubber. I know rubber is no longer our main source of income, but it is still so much better than the question I was asked  not very long time ago. I was once asked if Malaysians still live on trees! That is how well our country is known globally sometimes haha!

I was talking to another student from the Pharmacy department, who is from the Philippines. He is a mixed; his dad is a Chinese and his mom is a local Filipino. He commented about the unique English we speak, as he has a Malaysian friend in his faculty. He notices that when we talk to foreigners, especially to ang moh, we would try our best to talk with that slang to imitate the Queen's English, which sounds weird most of the time, and we often fail miserably haha! On the other hand, when we are talking among ourselves, we would turn back to our famous Manglish that we are all proud of lol!

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The group photo at the end of the party. Thanks for reading this short entry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sakura Tulip Festival

Guess what, I was away to Holland over the weekends a couple of weeks ago.

Haha! As if you gonna believe me, right? So, without going any further, let me tell you the truth-lah. There was a tulip festival recently, held in Sakura city, a city neighbouring Chiba city. Cherry blossom has already fallen in Kanto region by this time, and it is time for tulips to take over the job of decorating the spring season. It took me roughly forty minutes of train ride from my place in Inage to Sakura station and from there, I took the free shuttle bus to the location where the tulip festival was held.

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The free shuttle bus, for the convenience of visitors to the tulip festival.

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After getting down from the bus, we walked for about ten minutes along a river and the windmill could be spotted from afar.

It was a coincidence because on that day, it was the opening ceremony of the 22nd Sakura Tulip Festival.

Before the formal ceremony started, the visitors were entertained by Chiba-khun, the mascot for the National Sports Festival, that Chiba prefecture is hosting at the end of this year. There was a group of senior citizens on the stage, who joined Chiba-khun doing morning stretching and exercise with the visitors.

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The lateral view of Chiba-khun actually resembles the shape of Chiba prefecture on the map. 

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Chiba-khun getting ready for 100-meter hurdles haha!

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The Agricultural Counsellor, from the Dutch Embassy in Japan, who was the guest-of-honour to the opening ceremony.

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A group of cheerleaders consisting of the mothers of the students from a local primary school, entertaining the crowd.

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This cheerleading team was formed five years back, and one would never thought that they are mothers.

After watching the opening ceremony, it was time to explore the place, which was beautifully decorated with 139 types of tulips, which accounted to almost half a million plants. This visit reminded me to those times back then, when I was in Nagaoka where I visited Echigo Hillside Farm to see the tulips there every time spring came around. That was almost one year ago. I know it sounds cliché, but time flies really fast. Even faster than the shinkansen (bullet train) lol!

Back to the Sakura Tulip Festival, here are some selected shots of the tulips.

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The presence of the windmill makes one feel as if we are in Holland.

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They named this species as Washington.

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This one should be Parade.

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Parading in front of the tulips and the windmill as the background lol! 

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It's spring, but they have Christmas Marble too.

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 Close-up shot of Washington. Putting so many pictures of this species doesn't mean I am bowing to the Americans (an inside sarcastic joke, if you get me).

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Another close-up shot, this time it's Flaming Prism.

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Chiba-khun made its appearance again, to have pictures taken with the kids.

As you might notice, there is a windmill in this place. Named "De Liefde", which means Friendship, it was built and completed in 1994 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Sakura city. The parts of the windmill were made in Holland and assembled in Japan by the Dutch engineers. This windmill is the first wind-driven water pump in Japan, and is fully operated by the force of the wind.

I think this is the first time in my life that I have seen a real-life-sized windmill; it got me so excited when I saw it and couldn't wait to step into the windmill.

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Posing in front of De Liefde, which is made of wood and steel.

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Some information of the windmill.

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A little bridge for visitors to get into the windmill.

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The staff explaining some details about the windmill to the Dutch Agricultural Counsellor.

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This is the second floor of the four-storey windmill.

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Had the chance to camwhore with two Japanese girls, who was in the traditional Dutch attire in front of the windmill.


Besides watching the blooming tulips, there were other side activities for visitors as well.

Among others were the sales of tulips, in which visitors can pluck the tulips of their liking, which went on sale. Six stalks of tulips were sold for ¥500. Since most of the visitors were parents, who brought their children there, there were some events organised to cater these small little kids.

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Tulips on sale.

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Learning how to bend thin wires into animals' shapes.

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Like any other events in Japan, food stalls selling the normal food were set up.

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There were people who took the time to have hanami under the sakura trees too.

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A local scout team set up a tent for visitors to try on their art-work.

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Souvenirs, which were imported from Holland.

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I got one of those kissing-couple deco from my aunt, who visited Holland some time ago.

That's the end of my half-day trip to see tulips. Thank you for reading.

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!