Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rewind 2009

Here is my recap of 2009, before we welcome the new decade.











  • Laptop decided to call it a day. Got two new toys - a Macbook and an iPod Nano.
  • Went to Echigo Hillside Park again, for the second time with a few of Malaysian batchmates.
  • Received a surprise parcel from baby. All the presents were meant to be opened at different times and on our second anniversary, I got to open the final present.
  • The Malaysian students prepared satay for the Japanese to try on the school's hiking day. One of our marketing strategy for Warong Malaysia later in November haha.
  • It was the beginning of the university entrance exam season and on one random night, the guys decided to dress up for a model shooting session lol!
  • Attended the flower fair - Hana Ippai Fair in Nagaoka town.




  • Represented the class team in futsal during the ball game tournament in the school. Too bad we lost in the early rounds. Represented the international students' team in futsal and basketball as well. The basketball team got third place, no thanks to my funny basketball skills haha!
  • Contributed some unused cloths to Misawa Support Center. A week later, I received a postcard thanking me for the good deed.
  • Baby and I never thought that we could pull this out, something we started more than two years ago. Celebrated our second year anniversary in an interesting way.








  • Warong Malaysia was well-received again during the college festival. Satay and kuih bakar was the menu and we earned quite a bit from the sales of those food.
  • Went to Momijien for autumn foliage sight-seeing.
  • Attended the 50th Anniversary of Arai Rotary Club in Arai.
  • Met up with Kimura Sensei, a former lecturer in PPKTJ back in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Went around the Kappabashi Street with Kimura Sensei and we had lunch and interview session together.


  • Invited by Professor Kondo to have a meal with him. In the end, drank quite a lot but good thing that I was back to room in one piece haha.
  • Attended the International Understanding Education Presentation Contest in Niigata and went up the observation deck of the Bandaijima Building to see the city covered in white snow.
  • Joined classmates for year-end party. One of the most memorable time with them.
  • Had a steamboat dinner with a few juniors on Christmas eve.
  • Received a Christmas present for the first time.
  • Spent the winter holidays in Japan for the first time and make full use of the break for another vacation to somewhere interesting.
Happy New Year 2010!!!
and have a wonderful year ahead!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Niigata City From The Sky

Toki Messe Niigata Convention Center, a beautifully crafted building along Shinano River.

There was a presentation contest for elementary, junior high, and high school students within Niigata prefecture over the last weekend. Held in Toki Messe Niigata Convention Center, this event was participated by seven primary schools and eleven schools were in the junior high school/high school category. Two teams from Nagaoka College of Technology, with a mixture of Japanese and international students joined this competition.
I tagged along as well, not as a participant, but just to KPC give moral support to the juniors haha.
Frozen lake. Perfect setting for penguins haha.
The trains service might got halted when it snows heavily, but not shinkansen. This is the Shinetsu Line that connects Niigata to Tokyo.
Tar-roads that turned into white slippery surface.

The journey to Niigata was nothing less interesting. Usually, a bus ride from Nagaoka to Niigata would take around one-hour plus but this time, due to the heavy snowfall on that morning, it took us almost two hours. However, it didn't bother us much because it stopped snowing later that morning and the blue sky came out.
Who would complain when you got to see such breathtaking scenery. It was almost like in a fairy tale.
Blue sky and white snow, a perfect colour combination.

It seems that the rice fields are borderless. Perfect timing gave me this nice shot with a crow flying across the moment I pressed the shutter.

At one point of the journey, the traffic suddenly got slowed down. We wondered what happened, and thought that it could be just some heavy snow storm ahead that it prevented the vehicles to run too fast, although it was an expressway. Some said it could be an accident.
When I saw a police patrol car in front, I knew it should be an accident.
The question was, how serious it got.
The white lorry turned turtle. Quite a scary scene.

One difference I can tell between Malaysians and Japanese is that whenever there is an accident, the Japanese do not slow down or stop their vehicles to jot down the plat number of the vehicles involved in the accident.
I would say most drivers in Japan are courteous, but sometimes accidents are inevitable due to natural phenomenon like slippery roads for example. Imagine if it snows in Malaysia and I guess the accidents rate could double or even triple the current already-high accidents rate.
Stopped at Kurosaki rest area for toilet break.
Got Starbucks also-lor haha!
Greeted by the longest river in Japan, Shinano River which is 367 meters long. This is nothing, because our Rajang River is more than 500 meters long.
One part of Niigata city. No doubt it is more 'city' than Nagaoka haha.
Second-hand cars covered in thick snow.
Finally, after a long journey, we reached the event place.
A work of art placed inside the convention center, entitled "Turning the World Upside Down".
It was a work of art by Anish Kapoor, an award-winning Indian sculptor artist who lives in London.
It is a piece of steel that shines on the surface and could be called a giant stainless steel concave mirror. Images are reflected upside down on the surface it viewed from distance, but upon coming closer the same images reverse. This puzzle is meant to stop visitors who are passing through the lobby.
We actually spent some time having fun with this mirror before walking to the main hall, where the competition was held haha.
The program booklet. Every participant received a book coupon worth ¥500; I got it too although I wasn't a participant lol.
Nagaoka A consisting of two Japanese students and Arogo from Gabon.
Nagaoka B, which had Carine (Malaysia), Salehin (Bangladesh) and Komi (Japan).
The theme of the competition was 国際理解教育プレゼンテーションコンテスト (International Understanding Education Presentation Contest). Basically, it was about the voluntary works that students had got involved in their school or within their town vicinity. Through those programs, they would present the final result in this contest.
One example would be collecting plastic bottle caps and then selling them. The money from the sales of bottle caps would be used to purchase vaccine for the poor children in Africa who are suffering from various kinds of diseases.
Handbell choir performance before the results of the contest were announced.
And do you know that there are tens of thousands of children around the world, especially in Africa who lose their lives every day because of hunger. I am not gonna write down every details here, but attending this presentation contest have certainly become an eye-opening for me. That is why one thing I hate (although this is quite a strong and unpleasant word) it whenever I see someone who don't finish up their food, citing that their stomach is full as a lame excuse.
During the late lunch break, we thought of grabbing some light and simple stuff from the convenience store inside the convention center. But when we went to the bento and bread section, we had a shocking discovery.
Have you ever seen such thing in a convenience store in Japan?
Everything was sold out; clean and clear haha.
It is like Japan was gonna sink on the next day.
Ironically, it was just moments ago that we heard a presentation about the lack of clean water at some parts of the world. And when we were looking for food for lunch, we were facing some food crisis lol! Since it would take some time to go out to the nearby restaurant outside the convention center, we decided to skip our meal.
Water shuttle service along Shinano River.
Some abandoned fishing boats.
One of the many bridges that connect the other side of the city.
Snow might look beautiful, but it can be a nuisance at the same time. Some workers clearing the pedestrian path.
The contest lasted for long hours and I didn't stay in the hall throughout the entire contest. Instead, I took some time off to explore the convention center. My walk took me to somewhere interesting which I spent more than an hour there.
So, what is so interesting about that place?
Bandaijima Building, which is part of the Tokki Messe.
There is an observation deck for visitors.
Standing at 143 meters tall, it is the tallest building on the Sea of Japan. The observation deck is located on the 34th floor where one can view the areas in and around Niigata city. Depending on weather, one can also see Sado Island, the next biggest island after the four main islands in Japan.
From December 1st, 2009, the observation deck was renamed as Befco Bakauke Observation Room. The word bakauke in the Niigata dialect of Japanese colloquially means "extremely well received".
Facts and figures about this building.
This convention center - Toki Messe, is named after toki, the official bird of Niigata Prefecture.
I have been up to several observation tower in Japan over the years, but this is my first time going up one during the winter season, in a place where it snows. The view of the city from the deck was certainly breathtaking where all the rooftops were covered with white snow.
South part of the city.
Niigata Big Swan Stadium, which hosted three World Cup matches in 2002, including the opening match in Japan.
Niigata Port in the far background. This is also the port for ships heading to Sado Island. The shadow of the Bandajima building can be seen here.
The north section of the city. Foreground is the Shinano River and far background is the Sea of Japan.
It was sunny on the left, which there was a snow storm on the right. Amazing sight.
As I was busy snapping pictures from the deck, I approached one of the two volunteer guide there to ask him if the island at the far background is Sado, and it was from there that he explained the history of the city for more than one hour. Honestly, I a bit regretted doing that because I still need to watch the presentation contest and yet, he continued to explain every single details on the city enthusiastically. Whenever I tried to cut the conversation, he would proceed to the next topic lol!
Realising that there was no way I would be able to escape from him, I just gave in and listen to the very end of his explanations haha. However, don't get me wrong because I really appreciate his effort and at least I learned a few interesting stuff about the city. In fact, I am really impressed by his ability to remember the dates, facts and figures of every important events in the city clearly. For example, in 1922, the Ōkōzu Canal (大河津分水路 Ōkōzu Bunsuiro) was built to defend Niigata from floods. It enabled the Niigata plains to be filled with rich rice fields and today the city would never be flooded like how it used to be many years ago.
Sado Island was visible on that fine afternoon.
The many bridges across Shinano River.
In fact, the name Niigata (新潟) actually comes from the combination of two characters, 新 (new) and 潟 (lagoon). It was said that the newly formed lake at the river mouth of Shinano River and Agano River makes the place as a new lagoon, which explained how the name Niigata came from.
Shinano River used to be much wider, more than two times the current width at the river mouth. However, land reclamation down the years had made the river become as narrow as how it looks like today and the Toki Messe Convention Center is actually built on the reclaimed land.


#1 North


#2 South


#3 East


#4 West
Niigata was one of the five main ports in Japan during the olden days, together with Yokohama, Hakodate, Kobe, and Nagasaki. During the 2nd World War, Niigata city was one of the initial target for the atomic bombing by the United States.
How the world history would change if that bombing had took place in Niigata city.
Took a picture with the guide.
And also with the characters from the popular drama Tenchijin haha.
Before I leave, I asked a favour from a tourist to take a picture with that guide. He told me it was his first day as a guide there because previously, he was a guide at some local museums. By the way, I was the first person of the day whom he gave explanations to. Lucky me :)
That sums up a worthy trip to Niigata.