Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tales From The Office

"Do you have lots of orang utan in Malaysia?"

my senior's image
on Malaysia


Do you know what is the most chi kek thing at my department? I think I have mentioned in previous entries before this that I am (temporarily) assigned at the helpdesk department, which mean our main task is to solve various problem users face while using their computers. If you know me well enough, it is kinda of a ironic thing for a noob in technology field like me (according to Datin Merah Jambu) to be doing this now haha! 

To be honest, I never thought I would be employed into this department. First of all, to be in this department would mean that it will requires a lot of conversation session with the users, mainly in Japanese. I guess the reason they put me here is because they probably find that my voice is too sexy, and my talent will be wasted if I am assigned into a different department lol wtf!

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This gadget is my new phobia. I call it telephobia haha!

So, back to the chi kek thing, it is the phone-call war. There are currently five of us there and whenever a call comes in, everyone will be rushing to answer the call. It is as if whoever who gets to answer the call first will be given a one-year bonus haha! And these seniors are really fast when they pick up the phone - in less than 0.345 seconds! However, as they want to have me to practise dealing with phone calls, they have decided to slow down their pace and allow me to pick up the phone nowadays.

There is a reason why they make sure that they answer a call almost immediately, i.e. not allowing the phone to ring more than the first beep. It is because it is something courteous to be shown to the customer, not wanting to keep the customer waiting. If the phone rings more than eight times, it will automatically go into the voice message.

Too bad that it is a totally different thing when you call a government department or some companies in Malaysia, where they either will ignore your call, or make you wait like forever, that you can literally go the the market to grab some vegetables, go for some light groceries at the supermarket, have a meal, take a short nap and get back to the call only to find out that they are still not back yet.

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This is a three-day collection of snacks and cookies from the people at office.

The calls will start ringing early in the morning, the moment the clock strikes nine. Another period when the calls come in a lot is late evening, usually the last thirty minutes before five. Those are the times when it can get really busy that we can't leave our seat even if we got a real emergency to attend in the toilet. Sometimes, the questions the user ask is quite cute. There was one time there is this customer, who asked me, "Hello, I'm XXX from ZZZ company, and I am in real trouble and I really, really need you help, prueaseeee!! The icons on my desktop has shrink and can you tell me how to make them return to their normal size?"

I digress.

It seems like a culture in the Japanese office to distribute okashi (snacks and sweets) among the colleagues, especially when they go on a business trip and come back with souvenirs. In Japan, giving souvenirs to your colleagues at work, or friends when you visit their house is considered an important custom, where failing to do that will create an unpleasant image on yourself. 

Often there are snacks and sweet given around the office almost everyday, even thought sometimes, they just distribute them around for fun. Maybe they long to be a Santa during the Christmas off-season. The distribution is so often that I believe if I were to collect them, I can open an omiyage (souvenir) museum in less than a year from now haha!

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My current on-site base in Roppongi, Tokyo.

Since a fortnight ago, I was assigned to a new project together with Sato and Samitha. We now no longer work from our office in Akihabara, but the customer's main headquarters in Roppongi. When I started working, I never know that I will be put to work at such classy places. Lets see, since I started working in April, my base has moved from Tokyo to Ginza, and now Roppongi. I wonder where would the next assignment take me to *hehe*

As for now, we will stay here until the end of July and after that, the project will take us to places outside Tokyo, where the furthest one will be in Fukuoka in Kyushu. I hope I get that assignment as I miss Hakata ramen so much lol! However, there is one place called Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture where there is basically nothing but mountains around the town, and none of us wants to go there. Lets wait and see who will be the 'lucky' ones to be selected lol!

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The open space for meetings and lunch on the 16th floor.

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Magnificent view of Tokyo a day after the typhoon.

There have been several funny incidents happened so far at this new place and one of them was the toilet tragedy. The lights in the toilet are basically turned on automatically when the sensor senses a person walks into the toilet. After a certain period of time, the lights will be turned off. So, one of us (not me though) was having his sweet time doing his business inside the toilet. As he was sitting down without much movement made, the lights went off and the toilet turned totally dark! So dark that he can't even see anything, not even himself.

What a wonderful situation right? And here is another problem. The sensor was located at the entrance to the toilet and there is no way for him to turn it on no matter how much he moves, because the sensor would not be able to sense his movement, unless he walks out. But the toilet was so dark he couldn't even see properly to put on his pants. The only thing he can do is to hope for someone to walk into the toilet for the light to be turned on. Lucky him that someone eventually walked in; otherwise he told us he was already planning to call one of us to rescue him from the toilet lol!

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Went to this wonderful restaurant called Gonpachi to have dinner together last Friday.

Another incident happened today when I was doing a practice session with my senior. From next coming Monday onwards, we would go to the users' office to collect the old PC from the users and exchange them with new PCs. So, as a preparation, we did some practice sessions to familiarise ourselves with the procedures and everything, where our seniors took the role as the users. 

Then came the silly moment. As my senior entered the password for the new PC, some error message appeared. You see, there are a few rules for the password setting; i.e. only digits and no alphabets or characters are allowed, simple combination of digits will not be accepted, etc. So, after confirming with my senior, whether or not he had followed those password setting rules, the same error still appeared. To confirm if he didn't make any mistakes when he key in the password, I undertook a "smart" troubleshooting method. Guess what I did?

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Yuzu mojito (柚モヒート), which contains yuzu lime juice, fresh mint, sake and soda.

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A combination of several sumiyaki charcoal grill (炭焼き).

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Hot chocolate cake and sesame ice cream (left) and kuzumochi and kinako ice cream (right).

I asked him this: "Can you please let me know the password you have just key in?"

Everyone in the room, including my senior couldn't hold himself and burst out laughing loudly lol! Coming to think about it, it was a damn stupid question from me to ask the user, right? Password is meant to be a secret pin and it will defeat its purpose if it is revealed to other people. I don;t even know what on Earth was I thinking by asking the user for his password haha wtf! It is fortunate that it happened during the practice session, and not the real thing; otherwise I would be making a fool of myself in front of the users lol!

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3S & 1C (Samitha, Suzuki, Sato and Calvin). The four kudaranai members haha! Why? Because whatever that comes out from our mouth is mostly full of craps lol!

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As usual, our self-taken group photo outside the restaurant.

This place, called Gonpachi (権八) in Nishi Azabu (西麻布) was introduced by Samitha as he has several Sri Lankan friends working at the restaurant. Gonpachi is an izakaya-style restaurant, located in the trendy district of Roppongi in Tokyo. Gonpachi is the place that inspired the Lucy Liu sequence in Kill Bill (think Charlie Brown and the Crazy 88). This restaurant has had people like Lady Gaga, Leona Lewis, Stevie Wonder, John Key, and also footballers like Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davis dining here in the past.

Though the menu isn't authentically Japanese (the avocado tempura was not bad though), the decor is undeniably Edo. Overall, Gonpachi is an enjoyable, befitting its atmosphere and appeal to the Westerners.

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The newbies in the company.

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Pardon me for the continous spamming of our group photo. This was after the welcoming party dinner in Akihabara on Thursday night.

Just a couple of days ago, there was a welcoming ceremony for the four of us, held by our supervisors and seniors in our company. Our big boss however, was absent as he was in Singapore at the moment. It was a crazy two-hour nomikai session, where we were of course thrown with questions which were kinda hard to answer, as usual lol! I was even asked to sing the national anthem Negaraku haha wtf! Damn random right?

But guess what was the question of the night from my senior? When I told her I'm from Malaysia, she asked me this: "Hmmm, I don't know much about Malaysia, but is there a lot of orang utan in Malaysia? My aunt, who saw that, told me to reply her like this: "oh yes... tell your senior - when we malaysians are bored-we climb trees n sing song-lenggang kangkung" haha wtf!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chiba Kun Ambassadors On Nekketsu BO-SO TV

"The rising Korean super star"

Kevin Ng
comment on Facebook


So guys, do I look like a Korean? I'm not sure why Kevin felt so, but I will welcome his compliment with both hands and open heart haha! Sounds very much like a direct translation from Malay language though, but cincai-lar.

Catching up from where I stop in the previous entry, in which I did a countdown to the live show of Nekketsu BO-SO TV (熱血BO-SO TV). Our first task as a guest was a very simple one - to clap hands during the opening. The show is led by Mr Happa Ikki (八波一起), a popular presenter and TV personality, who acts as the boss of the company. The show is being portrayed as an advertising company to promote the charm of Chiba Prefecture and joined by several staffs and reporters, known as its agents. Unfortunately for us, its advisor, Mr Morita Kensaku, who is also the governor of Chiba Prefecture couldn't make it to the show on that day.

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Woahh, never thought on day my name will appear in a Japanese show lol!

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Tried to control my machoness in front of the camera, for not wanting to appear as overly excited like a jakun in my first live TV appearance haha!

This show started its broadcast in early April 2010 on a weekly basis. Among the guests who have been invited to the show in the past were Chiba Kun (チーバくん) and also Akimoto Sayaka (秋元才加) and Kuramochi Asuka (倉持明日香), members of the idol group AKB48 which has gained enormous popularity in Japan.

Chiba Kun Ambassadors was invited to appear in the show every fortnightly beginning April this year. Our job is mainly as a commentator, to share our thoughts about the differences between Japan and our homeland for each segment in the show. So far, Zoltan Gergely Kurunczi (Hungary), Sikiru Tijani (US), Mi and Kei En (China) have appeared in the show in April and May. For June, I was invited and to pair up with Mi for the show.

The showed started with the introduction of each members in the set. As Mr Happa were introducing me, he made an impromptu request to have me stand up, to tell the whole Japan how tall I am lol! That was totally not in the script and was a spontaneous thing. So, I stood up proudly to show how tall I am, while he continued to pose me with another couple of questions. It was then that he said, "Errr, can already. You can sit down now" haha wtf!

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  Nabedana Co., Ltd. (鍋店株式会社) a sake brewing company in Kozaki town, (神崎町) in Chiba.

This week, all three segments were all about food. Maybe they knew I love food so much, that they purposely prepare such segments for me lol! First up was about an exploration of a famous wine cellar in (酒蔵探訪) in Kozaki town (神崎町) by Kuro-chan (クロちゃん). Located in Katori District, in the far northern section of Chiba Prefecture, Kozaki has been known as a village for fermentation and there are two shops which produce sake.

One of the shop which was featured in the show is Nabedana (鍋店), which has brewed the finest sake for the past three centuries. Mr Sato from Nabedana brought some of its sake to the studio for the guests to try on. It has a distinctive fragrant smell and the more you drink it, you will feel the heat produced by the sake. I however, just took a sip of the sake, 'coz I was kinda worried that I might get drunk and fall asleep halfway through the show lol!

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The varieties of sake produced by Nabedana.

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Filtration process or shibori (絞り), where bellows are used like a filter, in which moromi (final culture) are filtered to get clear sake.

The second segment was called the "Nekketsu Local Gourmet" (熱血ご当地グルメ), a corner to introduce Chiba's popular food and restaurants. This week, it was a unique sandwich from Kamogawa city (鴨川) in the southern tip of the Boso Peninsular. The hosts made the guests to guess what kind of sandwich it was, which prompt several silly answers from them.

Rikki-san said it was a whale-cum-dolphin sandwich lol wtf!

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It's smoked mackerel sandwich (サバサンドイッチ).

This special sandwich is made famous by a restaurant called FUSABUSA (里海食堂 FUSABUSA). The crispy toast combines perfectly with the freshly smoked mackerel, which also has sliced tomatoes, lettuce and onions to go in between the bread. This dish originated from Istanbul, Turkey and is a very popular dish, widely sold in coastal towns in Japan. In Turkey, it is called balık ekmek (balık=fish, ekmek=bread).

So, how did the mackerel sandwich taste like? This fishy snack takes on almost poetic resonance. Really. The mackerel fillets, generously proportioned; and the bread, bearing a beautiful char from the grilled and perfectly sized, so that fish is not lost in a sea of dough. The salad, which is fresh and crispy and if you like, piled onto your sandwich freely.

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The freshly caught mackerel are smoked before they are inserted into the bread.

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The sandwich was too good that I didn't bother to look at the camera anymore lol!

The segment that followed afterwards was "Chiba's Soul Stirring Taste" (魂を揺さぶる千葉の味). As we welcome the upcoming summer, the trio of Takeuchi Siblings (竹内兄弟) introduced the taste that represent the summer season in Chiba - watermelon.

From the show, I learned that watermelon originated from Africa and was introduced to Japan after the Muromachi Period (室町時代), from 1337 to 1573. Watermelon, known for its potassium content, is found to be effective for fatigue recovery and diuretic effect, which works wonderfully well during the hot summer months. Watermelon are widely produced in Chiba Perfecture but the most popular one is in Tomisato city (富里市), where it is known as Japan's largest watermelon production city.

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Everyone shared a funny moment during the live show.

This city is so into watermelon that there is an event called the "Watermelon Road Race" (スイカロードレース) held annually. What's unique about this event is that at every checkpoint, there would be a corner for the runners to enjoy free watermelon. At the end of the race, runners can feast on the juicy watermelons as much as they can. Sounds quite fun, isn't it?

I guess if this is done in Malaysia, the runners might bring their fruit juicer to make watermelon juice at the end of the race lol!

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"Suika Musume" (スイカ娘), a kind of pickle made of watermelon skin.

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My weird facial expression after tasting the "daughter of the watermelon" lol! But to be fair, it didn't taste that bad; the pickle taste very much like pickled cucumbers.

Back to the watermelon story, the staff from Fusa-no Eki (房の駅) has come out with two new products made of watermelon. The first one is called the "Suika Musume" (スイカ娘) or the "watermelon's daughter". It is a type of pickle made of watermelon's skin. The watermelons used are those which are still young; when their sizes are still about the size of a tennis ball.

The second product was watermelon jelly (スイカゼリー). I have eaten stuff made out of watermelon such as watermelon juice, but this is my first time to see watermelon are turned into dessert.

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Watermelon jelly, packed in a very cute container.

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This is the traditional way for the Japanese to eat their watermelon. Just kidding!

So, after three segments, all on food ended, it was also time to say goodbye to the show. Compared to the rehearsal, the forty-minute live show went by like a a flash. I'm glad that my first live appearance in a TV show was a smooth sailing journey without any silly or awkward moments, which I am famed for haha!

Ever since this story about me appearing in the show went public, whenever I chat with my friends nowadays, they will tease me with lines such as, "Yes, Mr Celebrity?" or "Ada itu olang sulah manyakk sombong". So, in return, I replied them, "Yup exactly, so from now onwards, you guys gotta take nombor giliran or book me a few days earlier whenever you wanna chat with me haha!

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Having a photo with Mi at the end of the live show.

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A group photo with everyone who appeared in the show on June 16, 2012.

Just a friendly public announcement here. I will be making a second appearance next week on 30 June 2012, on the same show again. It is also a live appearance and will start at 5:30 p.m. on Chiba TV. Do catch me if you have time! Suddenly I feel like I am talking like a celebrity already now lol!

Link of the show (16 June 2012) on the official site.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Appearing In Japanese Variety Show

"Are all Malaysians as tall as you?"

Mr Happa Ikki
main host of Nekketsu BO-SO TV


Guess what? I have quit my engineer job. Although I have just started working for less than three months, I have decided to give up on my job to become an entertainer in a Japanese variety show. TV personalities are more commonly known as geinoujin (芸能人) in Japan. And before you start wondering why did I choose this path, instead of doing a more secured and stable job, think again because I was just kidding only-lah.

I am still a full-time engineer, but sometimes a part-time babysitter and now, part-time geinoujin hahaha wtf! I'm pretty sure you saw that coming, didn't you? I was recently invited to be one of the two guests in a local variety show on Chiba TV called Nekketsu BO-SO TV (熱血BO-SO TV). Since April this year, two persons from the first batch of Chiba Kun Ambassadors are invited each time to the show, on a biweekly basis. So far, Zoltan Gergely Kurunczi (Hungary), Sikiru Tijani (US), Mi and Kei En (China) have appeared in the show. 

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I met up with Mr Ishizaki at Chiba Station, and Ms Osada later accompanied me to Chiba TV headquarters. 
Here I am, outside the building upon arriving at Chiba TV.

I didn't even think twice whether or not to accept the invitation to the show when I received the e-mail last month. It was not something you get to do everyday - to appear in a TV show, what's more when it is a live recording, isn't it?

Nekketsu BO-SO TV is basically a program to introduce information about local personalities and specialties of Chiba Prefecture through a live show. Its name "BO-SO" comes from the multiplication of two identical words - Chiba Prefecture's pseudonym "Boso" (房総) and "boso" (暴走) which means run wildly. Not sure how running wildly is connected with the show; probably the local specialties are too good that when people try on them, they will be so impressed until they run wildly.

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The schedule of the day for the whole crew team.

I literally have zero knowledge about the geinoujin world in Japan. I don't think I can even name any random three current popular Japanese actors or actresses. Yes, that is how bad I fare haha! However, despite that disability, I'm still very determined to join a few of these geinoujin and have fun at the show.

The show was scheduled to start at half past five in the evening. However, we were told to be there by three as we would be given a briefing by the producer, change our costumes, do some rehearsal and finally, the live show. However, looking at the schedule, it is amazing that the behind-the-scene crew members had arrived there at noon. I can't help but to be really impressed by the amount of preparation time made for a show that lasts for only 40 minutes.
 
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Two sets of wonderful bento boxes and snacks, plus drinks for the two of us.

Upon reaching the main entrance of Chiba TV, the security staff requested Ms Osada to register her name first. However, it was a free pass for Chiba Kun Ambassadors. For once, I experienced the feeling of arriving at a location like a VIP haha wtf!

We were directly taken into a waiting room, also specially designed for the two Chiba Kun Ambassadors. The moment I stepped into the room, I saw a couple sets of bento box on the table. And I guessed it right; it was for both of us! As I just had my lunch a couple of hours earlier, I tapao-ed the bento box, and also the rest of the snacks back home lol!

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The flow of the show and also the detailed script for each segments for us to go through one last time. Now I know every second counts in a live TV show.

Mr Kimura Akihide, the producer then came in to give us a short briefing about the show. He was certainly a no-nonsense guy and quite scary actually haha! He will sound you immediately if you do not pay attention to him fully when he was explaining, just like what happened to Mi. Reminds me of some of my strict discipline teachers back in my high school lol!

After the briefing, we went to change our costumes. I got my elegant black baju Melayu and a beautiful piece of kain samping from my senior, Nazrul a.k.a. Doink who was kind enough to lend me for the show. It was my first time wearing a traditional Malay costume, but the tough part was the kain samping. I have never tied it before and honestly, I was actually worried that it might drop off during the live show. I bet if that were to happen, I would be super famous around Japan after the show hahaha wtf!

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Took a photo in front of the mirror while chit-chatting with the super friendly staff who were applying some light make-ups for me.

As Mi got her hair and face done by the make-up artists duo, consisting of the mom and her daughter, I asked them if guys will have themselves done as well. She said to me that my natural look is already too good and I do not need any extra touch-ups.

Haha, unfortunately, the make-up artists were not that flirtatious as I would've wanted lol! She instantly asked me to take a seat and started working on my face. She has been doing this job for the past 40 years! I told her that it almost equals to two times of my age. She just gave me a smile and continued with her task of performing a make-over for me lol!

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 Entered the studio and the first thing was to adjust our chairs' position to fit the camera angle.

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And we started the rehearsal session at four, for the next one hour.

As we stepped into the studio for the rehearsal session, all the guests were already seated on their positions. To see these people in real, while I have only seen them on TV all this while gave me some kinda goosebumps feelings. Several crew members on the other hand, were making some last-minute adjustments to the set and equipments.

And hence, we began our rehearsal session. 

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Mr Happa Ikki asking me a couple of questions at the beginning of the show.

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Kuro-chan (in pink t-shirt) introducing his corner.

While the presenter mostly looked at their script held together with them when they speak, I wondered how could they managed to memorise them in just a short while and almost not refer to the script at all during the live show an hour later. But do you wanna know the secret behind it? Let me reveal how they managed to do that.

There are crew members who will stand just next to the camera. They will be holding the script, printed with unusually large font and from there, the presenter just have to read them up while trying to look into the camera and appear as if they aren't reading from a script. I gotta say they did a great job in mastering that skills.

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This is an example of the script, held by one of the head crew of the show.

From participating in this live show, I have learned quite a few things in a production of a variety show. For example, the short 60-second commercial break is the time where they make quick adjustments for the next segment. It's just amazing to see how the crew members invade the main set like nobody's business trying to rearrange the chairs and tables, and the guests of the show doing some touch-ups on their make up with just about fifteen seconds before the show resumes. And they barely panic and looked as calm as ever.

There were a few segments where we get to sample the food during the show. However, for the rehearsal, we were only given empty plates. When the host asked me how was it, I told him the food tasted delicious. He responded by expressing his amazement at my ability to foretell how the food taste even before I taste it haha!

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Rikki-san (seated, first from left) were clearly super impressed with my giraffic height haha!

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And so, the rehearsal session ended.

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Took a photo in front of the show's poster outside the studio after the rehearsal session.

At the end of the rehearsal session, Mr Kimura came to us and told us that we don't have to be stiff during the show, but relaxed and enjoyed it as much as possible. I barely gave much comments during the rehearsal, because like Mr Kimura had reminded us, it would be better we keep them during the live show; otherwise the suspense and excitement will be lessen if we say out everything during the rehearsal.

I felt quite anxious during the rehearsal to be honest, probably it was my first time. I told myself to be as natural as I could, and just enjoy the moment during the live show that will come shorty after that.  And finally, as the clock ticks away, we were just minutes away from the live show. Everyone took their positions and the cameras were ready to start rolling.

With a countdown of five, four, three, two and one...


~ to be continued ~

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chiba Kun Ambassador, Again

"We would like to have you as one of the
 Chiba Kun Ambassadors again this year"

International Division of
Chiba Prefectural Office


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The appointment certificate presented to the Chiba Kun Ambassadors.

Oppps, I did it again lol!

And so, this is gonna be my second consecutive year to be one of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors (チーバくん大使). My journey with this interesting project started about a year ago, when I came across a pamphlet at the International Education Center of Chiba University. The requirements are basically quite simple - you gotta be a foreigner and ready to promote the uniqueness of Chiba Prefecture through various social media such as personal blogs and Facebook. You can take a look at a more detailed description about Chiba Kun Ambassador on its official site here.

The moment I saw that, I knew that it is something that fits my interest very well. I love taking photos, I love to crap in my blog, and I thought why not I give it a try. So, the first year ended with three tours to various spots around Chiba Prefecture. We were brought to experience various kinds of fantastic tourists spots, to try on delicious local delicacies, and also not forgetting, having the chance of being featured in Chiba TV early this year.

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Being interviewed at Chiba University by Mr Takahashi (right), the director from Chiba TV (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).

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A letter of appreciation from the International Division of Chiba Prefectural Office for being part of the project last year. 
We were given a Chiba Kun badge as a souvenir as well.

Our period of appointment for the first batch was scheduled to end this month, and a brand new batch of Chiba Kun Ambassador would be elected. Initially I wanted to apply to be Chiba Kun Ambassadors again this year. However I have since moved to Tokyo and technically no longer a Chiba Prefecture resident, which is supposed to be one of the requirements to apply to be a Chiba Kun Ambassador. 

However, guess what? They made a special exemption for my case, and sent me a personal request to be join the project again this year. Sounds so damn cool, isn't it?

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The new group of Chiba Kun Ambassadors this year, who posed together with Chiba Kun himself and Morita Kensaku (森田健作), 
the governor of Chiba Prefecture (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).

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Taking another group photo in front of the countdown board to Chiba Aqua Line Marathon this coming autumn (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).

This project, which enters its second year, started a couple of months earlier than the previous year. The appointment ceremony (任命式) was held early this week but unfortunately, I couldn't attend it due to work commitments.

This year, there are twenty Chiba Kun Ambassadors appointed from nine countries. Just like last year, I am the sole representative from Malaysia. Nevertheless, it provides me with a great chance to mingle with the rest of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors, who come from China, Taiwan, America, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Netherlands. This year, the group is much more diverse because we have an equal number of Ambassadors from each parts of the world, although half of them still come from China and Taiwan.

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Despite not making to the appointment ceremony, see what I got! Besides the appointment certificate, there were also several pamphlets, 
Chiba Kun Ambassadors badge and goods, including the tumbler which is a limited edition item.

I came across an interesting writing from Ivan Prakasa, a fellow Chiba Kun Ambassador this year from Indonesia, who had his friends wondering if he does not longer love his motherland after becoming Chiba Kun Ambassador which helps to promote the prefecture to the world. His reply went something like this:

""Menjadi duta pariwisata di negeri orang bukan berarti kita tidak mencintai negeri sendiri. Justru dengan menjadi baik di negeri orang kita secara tidak langsung akan mengenalkan negeri kita kepada orang lain."

Translation: "To be an ambassador in a foreign land does not mean we no longer love our motherland. That's because being a great role model, showing a good attitude while living in a foreign country indirectly will reflect a good image on our country".

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Gonna be the Chiba Kun Ambassador for the second year running, but the sheer enthusiasm just gets bigger.

For more than five years since I came to Japan in 2007, I am proud to say that besides the main purpose of coming here to study, I have involved myself with various kinds of local projects which had indirectly promote Malaysia to the Japanese community and the world. At the same time, I got to expend my network and knowing new people from different backgrounds and sometimes, I get to learn something new from these amazing people. I guess besides being an ambassador for Chiba Prefecture, I am doing the same thing as a duta kecil (small ambassador) for Malaysia at the same time.

I bet it is gonna be another interesting journey for us, the Chiba Kun Ambassadors this year. There will be four tours scheduled for this fiscal year, and the first one is gonna be this coming weekend to another few interesting spots in the eastern side of Chiba Prefecture. So, stay tuned for more updates soon!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Laos Festival 2012

"Yen sabai"

closing words at
Laos Festival 2012


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The sights and sounds of Laos Festival 2012 from the main stage.

"Yen sabai". Those are the two words that sum up so much of the Lao spirit which was left ringing in the ears as Tokyo bid farewell to its second annual Laos Festival 2012 on Sunday evening. "Yen means cool, and "sabai" means comfortable. Combine the two words and it is something like wishing everyone well. Correct me just in case I'm wrong here.

The event was organised by the Embassy of Laos to Japan in conjunction with the Tokyo Kokusai Gakuen Senior High School and the Japan Lao Parliamentary Friendship League. The venue of the festival was at Yoyogi Park's event plaze, in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo - the same venue for the Thai Festival a fortnight earlier. This spot is a common venue for an array of festivals, including the Jamaican Festival, Sri Lanka Festival and Brazilian Festival. The latter two though, are usually held in late summer.

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Every food stalls enjoyed brisk business as visitors queued up to get some authentic local food.

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If the Thai has Singha Beer, Laos has their very own Beer Lao. How about Malaysia? Todi? Haha!!!

If you had dropped by at the Thai Festival and One Love Jamaica Festival earlier in the month, you probably was put off by the incredibly huge turnout at the two festivals. However, things were less claustrophobic during the weekend's celebration of little old Laos. It was a very much toned down version compared to the Thai and Jamaican festivals.

On a balmy spring weekend, tens of thousands of curious locals and international flocked the city's popular Yoyogi Park event plaza. Saturday saw the peak of visitors, who did not wanna miss out on trying out the nation's favourite ale and browsing Laotian silk products and ethnic handicrafts on display. Though inclement weather dented visitor numbers on Sunday, there was still a solid attendance. Needless to say, the Lao expatriate community consisting of business people, diplomatic officials and students were there in force, promoting the nation.

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 One of the popular food stalls at the festival which offers Lao and Thai food. It has a wide variety of food and the price is slightly cheaper than other stalls.

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The queue stretched for almost 100 meters and there were two lines at one time!

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The chef working on his pad thai. Hopefully there wasn't any additional natural flavor enhancer dripped from his body lol!

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The money collector, who just dumped all the notes in a plastic bag haha!

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A set of pad thai and spicy minced meat with glutinous rice. I am so addicted to pad thai haha wtf!

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Finally, a traditional Lao food. Chicken soup with rice noodle and meatball. This was not bad.

It is said the way to the heart is through the stomach, and more than a few Japanese were won over to popular Lao culinary staples such as papaya salad, Luang Prabang sausage and the ever popular laap. It is never easy to get the locals to try something they have not seen before in their life. However, curiosity got over them and most of them did not wanna missed out on joining the queues at the numerous Laotian or Thai food stalls, trying samples of Laotian rum, buying tropical fruit and vegetables from Laos, and drinking Laotian beer.

One thing however, despite the fact that it was the Laos Festival, I saw more stalls selling Thai food than Laotian food. Moreover, there were also stalls selling Turkish kebab and French delicacies. It seems like it is more like an United Nations' Festival haha!

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Few Japanese futsal players decided to have some kebab during their break.

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One of the stalls that sells French food at Laos Festival.

No Lao festive gathering would be complete without music and dance, and the crowd was not left disappointed. Resplendent in the national dress of sinh and sash, pop singer Alexandra showed her vocal range and won over more than a few of the audience to her soulful sounds. Headlining Saturday evening's lineup was The Cells, who put on a blistering performance that had the crowd up and dancing. To the right of stage, a particularly energetic group of young Lao and Japanese led the way, and before long the crowd was up and dancing.

This years also marks the "Visit Laos Year 2012" and this festival was  indeed a great opportunity for the nation to promote its beautiful country and for visitors to pick up Laos-related travel and cultural information.

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Stage performers singing to popular Laotian tunes.

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They were also joined by dancers clad in colourful traditional Laotian costumes.

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A demonstration of how to make papaya salad, by the staff from the Embassy of Laos in Japan.

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Among the ingredients used when preparing Laos dishes.

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Visitors get to try on the food for free and everyone just rushed onto the stage to get some taste of the food haha!

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My DIY plate of Laotian glutinous rice and meat, with extra ingredients of various spices and herbs haha!

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Tropical fruits were on sale too.

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Handicrafts and clothings at some of the booths

On a more serious note, NGOs and Japanese partner organisations were also in attendance, sharing ideas with festival attendees on important challenges faced in developing the nation. Tokyo's Minsai Centre, which works in partnership with EDF Laos on education development programmes, was one such organisation. The Minsai Centre’s Aiki Sekiguchi said the festival was a great opportunity for Japanese people with an interest in Laos to further their knowledge while enjoying themselves. 

"We really want to tell them all the great things about Laos, and also what is happening with development. The children of Laos really need to go to school, and I think Japan and the Japanese are really in a position to assist in a way that is very beneficial," Mr Sekiguchi said.

I didn't spend too long at the festival as I was actually on my way to the futsal game in Kamata later that afternoon. So, that is roughly about the Laos Festival this year. Thank you for reading and by the way, do drop some comments down at the comment's box-lar, okay? Comments have been really scarce lately haha!