Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chiba Aqua Line Marathon 2012

"I've learned that finishing a marathon
isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind;
a state of mind that says anything is possible."
John Hanc
running writer


marathon

Yup, if you are wondering that I will be running a marathon, that is exactly I'm going to do come this Sunday. If you ask me half a year ago that I will be participating in a marathon race, what's more a full marathon (42.195 km), I would have laughed off that suggestion. For a person who finds it hard even to complete a 2-km jog several months ago, taking part in this grueling run is almost like a mission impossible to the power-of-two. 

However, let me just say that it was a twist of coincidence. Early this year, the Chiba-Kun Ambassadors were invited to participate in the first Chiba Aqua Line Marathon. Unlike normal participants who will have to go through a lottery draw to be selected as part of the 15,000 runners in the race, our places in the race are guaranteed. Without giving a second thought, and how grueling a marathon can be, I submitted my name.

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One-year countdown held in Umihotaru of Tokyo Aqua Line on October 21, 2011. (photo taken from here)

I admit that I slightly regretted my action at first, but realizing that it will be unpleasant to chicken out and pull out after registering, I told myself that this would be it. I'm gonna go all out and give my best in this race – my first ever marathon in my entire life. Prior to this, I have never joined in any race, be it a 10km race, half marathon; nothing, not even the popular jogathon during my schooling years. And yet, I am throwing myself into a marathon race. Sounds very much like an overly optimistic person, ain't I?

How I will fare in the race is not my main concern now, although my target for my first marathon is just to finish the race within the regulation time. I started my training back in late June, by running an average of 1 to 2 kilometers once every few days in a park (Shinkoiwa Park) where I am currently living. There is a 650-meter running track around the park, and that became my running place for some time. However, I realized that such distance is not enough if I am talking about training for a marathon.

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Countdown monument at the Chiba Prefectural Office in Chiba city. (photo taken from here)

On one fine evening, I decided to take a detour from my usual spot and pheww, it was certainly a great experience. Running on the Hirai Ohashi bridge that goes across Arakawa River and along the road which stretches along the river exposed my with the elements that I will certainly meet during the real race. A fantastic course for my intensive training, I thought. And as a bonus, there is the magnificent Tokyo Sky Tree and on a clear day, Mount Fuji is also visible during my run.

Soon, I drafted a training schedule, as I counted down to my race on October 21st. I have also set up a blog at fortytwo-point-oneninefive.blogspot.jp to track my training progress since then. To be honest, I would say I'm slightly undertrained for this coming marathon due to many reasons - tight working schedules on weekdays, business trips to outstation at times, weekends filled with plans, etc. I know that those are just excuses but well, I guess with all the training that I have done, I hope it will be enough for me to cross the finishing line at the Kisarazu City Hall Office, hence completing my first marathon in my life.

medal

Lets hope I can bring this back after the race this Sunday! (photo taken from here)

By the way, I will be one of the three Chiba Kun Ambassadors, who will be part of the 39 guest runners invited to run in this marathon. They include TV show personalities, university professor, commentator, high school school teacher, reporter, artists, all who are closely related to Chiba Prefecture. I could be the sole representative from the South East Asia. So the stakes are high and must make sure I finish off the race, no matter how many hours I will take!

I would love to quote Fred Lebow, the co-founder of New York City Marathon, which is part of the World Marathon Majors.
"The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon."
It's okay if you are not there to cheer me along the way or at the finishing line, but a short comment to wish me luck would be very much appreciated!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Barbecue Trip At Nakadaki Art Village

"Vegetarian" is an Indian word 
meaning "bad hunter"

no offense to 
all the vegetarians out there


So, did you get the joke? If you failed to get anything from your hunting, then you would just end up eating anything green you found around you, which makes you a vegetarian. Well, the catchy phrase above isn't really related to this entry. 

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Driving along Kujikuri Beach (九十九里浜) that occupies most of the northeast coast of the Boso Peninsular.

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 Restaurants and shops selling surfing equipments along the beach, which is the second longest in Japan.

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 Paddy fields were spotted along the way too.

Last weekend, the people from my company organised a 2D-1N barbecue trip. The location was in an exotic place in the southern tip of the Boso Peninsular in Chiba prefecture. Nakadaki Art Village, located in the rural city of Isumi has roots of 20 years deep. The concept is something like an eco-village, which are popping up like mushrooms across Japan lately.

The wooded community, surrounded with beautiful natural surrounding, is a mixture of homes (such as studio house and tree-house), art galleries, the Nakadaki music studio, Primrose curry shop, Vanashanti healing house and more. This place is just less than 100km away from Tokyo and this little home away from home certainly provides visitors with a great and exciting getaway from the hectic metropolitan life. Nakadaki Art Village regularly hosts outdoor and music events such as the Boso Fun Ride and Forest Jam as well.

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 Here we are - Nakadaki Art Village.

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 Tall pine trees decorates the village.

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 And the village is also surrounded with beautiful floras as well.

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 We spent our night in this fantastic studio house.

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 This is what greeted us once we stepped into the house - a bar!

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To the right is a cozy living room and a kitchen next to it.

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 The first floor is a huge room, where the guys could spread the futon on the floor and sleep like sardine, 
since all the rooms were taken up by the girls already haha!

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 Toilet, and with all those branches, in case you slipped, you can still grab onto one of them.

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 The GWC Stones haha! (photo credit: Eddie)

After departing from Shinkoiwa in Tokyo, we arrived at our destination on schedule. Karen, who rarely drives in Japan was our driver. The rest were so bad that they doubled the time we need to arrive because they expect Karen will be driving on tortoise speed. But in the end, that person who made that poor estimation was the last to arrive hahaha wtf!

After all the wooow-ing session around the studio house, it was time for us to do some shopping for the barbecue later that night. We divided ourselves into three groups, one is assigned to get the stuff for barbecue, one for salad, and another one for the next morning's breakfast. The guys were damn smart that they quickly chose to get the ingredients for salad 'coz it's the simplest and lightest job. In the end however, the girls realised that and immediately made the guys to grab the barbecue stuff instead lol!

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Short meeting before the shopping. One of us even suggested if we would wanna do a race
to see which group would finish getting their stuff first. Sounds like the Amazing Race pulak lol!

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 Eddie, who didn't need a basket, appeared from nowhere and said to us, "Hey, look at what I've got for our snacks!"

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 And finally, at the cashier. Our stuff were so much that it caused light traffic jam for a while haha!

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 And this is classic! The grand total for our grocery shopping, and the receipt was more than a meter long!

That is like almost RM1,200 worth of food, for just two meals! Damn siao, right? The initial budget for food set aside was actually double of that digit. Were we thinking about feeding cows and sumo wrestlers or what? And just when you thought that is insane, we actually went for a second round of grocery shopping later that evening. 

After the short adventure at the local supermarket, we decided to take our late lunch first.

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 Grilled tuna head (まぐろカマ焼き) set meal.

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 Eranga, Shinji, Thomas (bukan nama sebenar), Tsukada-san and Samitha.

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 Eddie, Miaoling, Karen, Erika and Miyata-san.
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 We dropped by the beach on our way back.

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The wave of the Pacific Ocean were simply fantastic.

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 Love this group shot a lot. The cloudy sky gives a dramatic background effect to the shot.

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 Members from Gateway Computer.

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 :)

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 Just before we leave, I said to Eddie, "Hey, lets camwhore!"

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 Our cute little rental car which was shared between Karen, Miaoling and me.

There were twenty-one of us who joined this trip but not all were from my company. Only twelve of us were from our company and the rest were the friends of our two colleagues, whom they got to know from their jamming sessions. One of them owns his own bar in Kichijoji area and he was our bartender for the night.

The menu of the night was Japanese seafood curry and salad, to go with the barbecue food. And of course, free-flow of drinks.

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This is how our studio house turned into at night.

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 The line-ups for the night.

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 The girls seemed to be having great fun in the kitchen.

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 The chefs kampai-ing together after they were done with their mission (photo credit: Eranga).

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 We got an astrologer in the house too. And I tell you his readings are pretty accurate and that is scary! (photo credit: Eranga)

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I worked at the BBQ pit almost the whole night (photo credit: Eranga).

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 Love this nice shot a lot! Thanks to Eddie.

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We spent the night chilling and barbecuing. Perhaps it was just too enjoyable that somebody even decided to strip haha!

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 The crazy six of us decided to go for a midnight stroll around the paddy fields at two in the morning. The stars were just breathtaking.

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One group photo on the next morning, with our Ghibli King a.k.a. Eddie sitting in the middle.

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 We stopped at Tsurigasaki beach (釣ケ海岸) on our journey back to Tokyo.

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 There is a toori gate build at this beach.

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 The weather was just perfect for surfers.

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This is what we call flapping waves.

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 :) (Part 2) lol!

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 And guess who we saw when we looked back? It was Miyata-san and Eddie behind us!

A big thank you to the organisers and it was a great two-day trip with this members!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Osaka, Revisited After Five Years

"Kui-daore-no machi"
the city that loves to eat


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Big slope, where you get to eat till you drop.

I have lived in Japan for almost six years and it is quite bizarre that of all the places, Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, remains one of the place that I have not really explored yet. I took the chance from my business trip to Sasayama in mid-August, by dropping by Osaka for half a day. It was a coincidence that Kai Cung and Shei Pien was there to visit their friend, and I decided to join them as well.

Actually the main intention was to meet someone special. More on that later.

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On my journey to Osaka from Sasayama on a local train. Again, the beautiful paddy field scenery provided vivid rural sight from inside the bullet train.

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My first culture shock in Osaka. One of the biggest difference between Osaka and Tokyo is this. Apparently people in Osaka will stand on the right side
and walk on the left, when they are on stairs and escalators. It is opposite in Tokyo.

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This is not a culture shock but it is indeed very passenger-friendly of JR West to prepare cushioned seats, as seen at Umeda station.

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Suica (rechargeable smart card) is not usable in Osaka, hence I had to revert to the traditional method of buying a ticket.

My last and only time to Osaka was like five years ago and that was only a short tour around Osaka. I only visited Osaka Castle and Universal Studio Japan (USJ) over a 36-hour span in Osaka. I don't know why, but I just cannot make myself loving Osaka as much as Tokyo. Probably because I'm too used to the life in Tokyo. Or perhaps, I don't really understand the Kansai accent lol!

And they say Osaka people are generally more friendly than Tokyo people. From my experience, it wasn't really the case. Or maybe I was just unlucky to met with rude and scary Osakaites hahaha! Furthermore, it is so hard to find my directions around this city, especially the train lines which is just too confusing. Sorry Osaka people, I still prefer Tokyo to Osaka.

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City in the garden? The main road near Dotonbori is full of green trees along the street.

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And sometimes, green river too lol!

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My first time to Dotonbori, the most popular entertainment district in Osaka.

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This is Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), arguably the most visited bridges in Japan because of one thing.

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Glico Man billboard, the giant neon athlete on a blue track is the most-common thing to be associated with Osaka, besides takoyaki (octopus balls).

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A trip to Osaka will never be completed without a photo with the Glico Man.

Dotonbori is a large scale downtown along the south bank of the Dotonbori-gawa Canal in Osaka. A common saying about Osaka is kui-daore-no-machi (食い倒れの街), or the town that loves to eat. And so, the entire area of Dotonbori is thronged with an unbelievable number of restaurants and amusement facilities, and is dearly loved by the Osakaites.

On both sides of the canal are lined with masses advertisements and neon lights. The entire sides of buildings are decorated with neon lamps. The illuminated signboards and neon lamps reflect on the canal at night, making Dotondori a dazzling place for visitors. Dotonbori is also often being used as movie location in Japanese and foreign films (Black Rain, 1989) as the symbol of Osaka.

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The south side of the canal, the Dotonbori Street, well-known for its various eateries with famous Osaka giant signs such as crabs and fugu.

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This 6.5-meter crab is on the front of a crab restaurant Kani Doraku and it is able to move its arms and eye-stalks.

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A giant advertisement to promote a popular Osaka specialty. There's a camera below the signboard and visitors can see their image appearing in the signboard.

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Another famous local specialty - various kinds of snacks of Kuidaore Taro, a legendary mechanical doll in Dotonbori.

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A giant dragon on top of a ramen restaurant. I love the open-air concept of this restaurant a lot!

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An UFC (unidentified flying cow) spotted in Dotondori!

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Apparently, the cow is a mascot for this restaurant, which specialises in beef or pork offal or more commonly known as horumonyaki.  

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Super angry uncle who operates this satay shop haha!

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Another green dragon, but this is a pachinko outlet.

No trip to Osaka will be completed without tasting its famous takoyaki or octopus balls. There is a small stall along the busy street of Dotondori which claimed to be ranked first by a few magazines and websites, including Gurunabi (a popular online restaurant site). Not sure how true it is as the people lining up for takoyaki from this stall is not as many as I would have expected.

We continued our short exploration around this area, and that brought us to a narrow, stone-paved lane with an atmosphere resembles that of the old days in Osaka. Hozenji Yokocho Lane has small food shops and cafes with beautiful latticework stand side by side, as a reminiscence of the Edo Period in the 17th century, which gives a peaceful atmosphere to visitors.

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The takoyaki stall which claims to be the best in the area.

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Beautiful quiet lane in Hozenji Yokocho, which offers a different atmosphere to that of Dotonbori Street.

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 Paper lanterns at Hozenji Temple, which enshrines Mizukakefudo. There is a statue in this shrine which is completely covered by moss 
which continues to thrive through people watering it when making a prayer.

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The long shopping street of Shinsaibashi-suji (心斎橋筋).

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And here you are! This is the main reason I made a stop in Osaka, not for its takoyaki but to see baby Yang Yang! 

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This is the Osaka's version of Yamanote Line. They call it the Osaka Loop or Osaka Kanjosen.

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And finally, time to return home. 

That sums up a short entry of my short trip to Osaka. Thanks for reading and every comment posted will be rewarded with three home-made takoyaki balls.