Friday, February 24, 2012

Delivering A One-Ton Elephant

Maybe the title sounds a little bit ter-tokok tambah-ed (exaggerated), but well...

So, yesterday I was packing my stuff to be delivered to my new place in Tokyo. Spent almost the whole day trying to squeeze my almost five-years worth of stuff (mostly rubbish to be honest lol!) which I managed to accumulate down the years. The surprising thing is, it took me just one day to gao dim everything. I still remember it took me one freaking week to pack my stuff when I was moving from Nagaoka to Chiba two years ago! But I have been moving between new places quite often already, so kinda like a pro already-lar when it comes to moving.


As usual, my room that looks like a war-zone whenever I pack my stuff before I move haha!

I know now is the season of moving to new places, especially to those who are graduating. So, this entry might be useful to my juniors in Japan who are still clueless what's the easiest, but most importantly, cheapest method of moving your stuff. Forget about the0123 (アート引越), Akabou (赤帽) or even Duck (ダック). Yes, I am not BS-ing you, there is a moving company called Duck haha wtf! Maybe he Japanese had ran out of ideas, and suddenly they saw a duck crossing a road, so they thought it might be a good omen to name their company after that bird haha! Imagine a company in Malaysia, to be named, say, "Tenuk Sdn. Bhd.". Sounds quite sexy also-hor?

Anyway, forget about ducks and tenuk, coz we are not opening a zoo haha! Introducing, Yamato-bin (ヤマト便). Sound a little bit like my name - Calbin haha wtf!

There is actually another service by Kuroneko (黒猫) which is specially tailored for moving (お引越し), where they provide you with a super huge box (1.8m×1.0m×1.0m), where you can squeeze everything inside, including washing machine and fridge! Unless you stuff is really a lot, I don't recommend this option because it is more expensive than my ever-favourite Yamato-bin.


Eighteen boxes of assorted sizes. From the smallest one that bunnies can mate inside, up to the largest one that can fit a baby hippo lol wtf!

And so, I called and requested them to come and collect my stuff yesterday evening. At around seven, my door bell rang and that uncle was there already. I opened my door, and saw that uncle, in his fifties I suppose, standing there, admiring my gorgeous boxes haha! He was so stunned by the amount and sizes of the boxes, that he stood there for another eight seconds before saying to me...

"Korewa sugoi desu ne" (This is just way too amazing)

I tried to tahan myself not to laugh, but his tone and facial expression made me couldn't help it hahaha! I quickly helped him to transfer the boxes into his truck, and during this process, he started to complain to me (in a friendly way) that he couldn't believe what he was witnessing lol! With this amount, the cost might shoot up as much as 20,000 yen, he told me. But I knew that he might be exaggerating it only, because I used the same method before this and it came out to around 6,000 yen only.

I think he was too stunned to the fact that he didn't even weigh my stuff and just randomly put the total weight as 400 kg, although he believe my stuff weigh more than a ton, which again, I think he was exaggerating. Uncle, you think I am sending an elephant meh lol! He also told me that he's giving me a special price (サービス) this time. Since when we get to tawar-menawar (bargain) when we send parcels one-arh?


Uncle elephant who was checking out the price for my stuff.

I didn't know how much it will cost me, because to be truth, my stuff is easily more than 500kg I think. (And I am not exaggerating like that uncle-arh haha!) So, while we load the stuff into the truck, he continues to complain to me non-stop and I just layan him-lar haha! Actually I feel a bit sorry for him also but then, well...

In his 30 years working with the company, it was the first time he saw parcels of such magnitude. And to be honest, I'm actually quite proud that I provided him his first time haha! There was one luggage, the black one, which was super heavy I couldn't really tell how heavy it was exactly, maybe more than 60 kgs. While we carry that luggage into the truck, he asked me if I put a dead-body inside the luggage haha wtf!

Uncle elephant suggested me not to do this again, instead to use the moving service next time. Well, he has his point because when there are too many boxes, they will not be able to deliver them even if there's one box missing. And bear in mind the stuff are not covered with insurance. So, never send your previous items like your laptops for example, using this method. You either bring them to your new place by yourself, or send them by Takyubin (宅急便), which is covered with insurance. 

Also, it is advisable to pack your stuff in small boxes, because the price depends on the total weight, not the number of boxes. So, even if you send a huge one-ton container or a thousand boxes of one-kg small boxes, the price is still the same. If the box is too huge, try not to put too many heavy stuff inside. Spread the weight of your stuff across your boxes. Have some sympathy for the person who's gonna deliver your stuff.

So, many must be wondering how much my 18 boxes which weighed more than half a ton, sent from Chiba to Tokyo cost.


It totals 6,350 yen, in which even the uncle elephant was surprised as well.

This is super dirt cheap, because if I were to use a normal moving service, it would cost me almost ten fold!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Me, Featured In Chiba TV

"I am proud to say that I've put 
my country's name on a TV show in Japan. 
That's to me, is a small contribution to my beloved Malaysia."

My thoughts, 
on the interview with Chiba TV.


The crew from Chiba TV at my school for shooting.

When I first submitted the application form to be a Chiba Kun Ambassador, the only thought about joining this project is that we will be given the opportunities to visit the popular tourist spots around Chiba prefecture, and later write reviews about these places in my blog, to introduce the amazing beauty and charm of Chiba to the world. Never did I imagine that this project would be featured in a local television show, what's more having one of the reporter to interview me for the show.

Yesterday night, we were featured in the "Special Corner" (特集コーナー) of the show, "Weekly Chiba Prefecture" (ウェークリー千葉県), which was broadcast on Chiba TV (千葉テレビ).


Miss Kasahara from Chiba TV, interviewing me after our tour to Umihotaru of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


No offense to her, but I should have stood a couple of steps back so that she won't have to look up at me (pun unintended) lol wtf (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki)!

Before I go any further, lemme explain briefly about what Chiba Kun Ambassador is all about, taken from the official website.

"Chiba Prefecture will begin the “Ambassadors to Spread Chiba Prefecture’s Charm to the World Together with CHI-BA+KUN” (abbreviated as “CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors”) project. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors are exchange students and other foreign residents living in Chiba Prefecture, who will use personal blogs, Facebook, and other social media to promote Chiba Prefecture’s many attractions in their native languages. 

The ambassadors will proactively explore Chiba both individually and through Prefecture-sponsored tours, which will include cultural workshops and visits to famous spots in Chiba. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors will then use these experiences to promote Chiba Prefecture’s attractions (tourist spots, cuisine, daily life, etc.) in their own words."


Mr Takahashi, the director from Chiba TV, interviewing me at Chiba University (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


Showing him the process of producing a blog entry (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


Behind the scenes of the shooting, done at the International Education Center of Chiba University (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


Referring to some pamphlets while I blog on an entry about the strawberries in Tateyama city. Well, to be honest, that blog entry was done and ready to be uploaded, 
but for the sake of the shooting, I acted as if I was blogging haha wtf! (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki)

So, what so we do, as Chiba Kun Ambassador? Just like the descriptions above, we will be taken on tours sponsored by the prefecture office to various tourist spots in Chiba prefecture. There have been three tours we participated, which include cities like Narita, Katori, Sawara, Minamiboso, Tateyama, and Kisarazu. During the tours, we visited various tourism spots and tasted popular local cuisines, as well as experiencing colourful cultural workshops, such as peanuts harvest in Boso-no Mura.

We will then write and upload photos about these attractions in our blogs, Facebook and other social media in our native language to express our impressions and thoughts about these places, which indirectly promote and boost the tourism industry in Chiba prefecture.


Shooting were then moved to outdoor, at the Katarai Forest (かたらいの森) next to the Centralized Library (附属図書館) of Chiba University. 
Mr Takahashi checking out if there's a bird doing its business on the tree right above him lol!

I personally think that this is a very creative project that would not only benefit the prefecture, but also the foreign ambassadors, who participate in this project. It is a win-win situation, where the promotion of tourism in the prefecture will be given an extra boost as we introduce these tourist attraction spots in our native language to our family and friends. At the same time, the ambassadors also get to be a small ambassador to their respective countries, to promote our beautiful country not only among ourselves, but also to the Japanese communities during our tours. For instance, we learned about each other's culture, language, and lifestyle.

Back to this interview by Chiba TV, some of us had previously gotten the chance to appear in radio stations a few months back. That time, I was a little envious to be honest, 'coz they picked them to talk on the radio stations haha! But never did I know that when it comes to the bigger opportunity, that is to to be interviewed and featured in a TV show, they decided to pick me haha!


Time to get serious. If only looks can kill (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).

Never in my life I was interviewed and featured in a TV show, be it in Malaysia or elsewhere. So, initially I felt quite anxious and wondered how would it go. Although the questions aren't any difficult ones, having a camera shooting you when you talk is much harder than it seems to be. In fact, it was harder than going for a job interview lol! I asked Miss Kasahara one time, if it is possible for us to have more than one take, just in case I flunk when I talk and she said "sumimasen, yillek" lol!

When the shooting session at the Katarai Forest were almost ending, we were looking for a few people to shoot a group conversation scene. So happened that three of my seniors were on the way to the university's cafeteria and I quickly requested them to join us. Still looking pretty clueless, they just agreed without knowing exactly what they were supposed to do haha! 


My lab seniors, who was pulled in to join the shooting session haha! (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki)


Had a group photo with the crews from Chiba TV at the end of the shooting session.

It took them almost two weeks since the shooting for them to edit and work on those footage. Finally, our interview was featured on the show on February 18, 2012 at 10.00 p.m. Due to some copyright issue, I will not be putting up the video of the show here, but it can be viewed from this site. Apologies for the poor quality.

I was pretty surprised that I was given quite a lengthy air-time in that ten-minute corner. Now I know why some people never watched themselves again on the TV because I felt so weird when I saw myself on the TV. It just felt so unreal and awkward hahaha! This might be slightly unrelated, but I went and find out how much does a 15-second commercial cost in Japan and on average, it costs about 20,000 to 3 million yen (RM7,000 - RM 120,000). Crazy stuff. And the appearance fee for Kimutaku to appear on a commercial is guess what; 90 million yen (Rm 3.5 million).


The book coupons I got from Chiba TV.

I might not a Kimutaku, but at least Mr Takahashi from Chiba TV was kind enough to present me with a couple of book coupons, as a token of appreciation. It was totally unexpected gesture from them, because for them to give me the chance to appear on TV was already something I appreciate a lot, what's more to be given those book coupons.

So there you go, my first experience of appearing on TV in Japan, which makes it another story I can tell my grandchildren when I grow old later haha!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Umihotaru Of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line

The final stop we made during the tour was to Umihotaru (海ほたる), literally means "sea firefly". It is an artificial island at the bridge-tunnel crossover of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, which connects the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture and the city of Kisarazu in Chiba prefecture. Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line has an overall length of 14 kilometers, which includes a 4.4 kilometer bridge and 9.6 kilometer underneath the bay, making the underwater tunnel ranked as the forth-longest in the world. Three of the world's top five underwater tunnels are in Japan.

Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is able to provide a shorter connection between the east side, Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama, and the west side, the Bōsō area, which still offers much room for development. As a matter of fact, the driving distance from Kawasaki to Kisarazu is only 30 kilometers whereas it is 100 kilometers via the Tokyo Bay Ring Road. The travel time that is needed to use the conventional route along the semi-circular coastal road is hence reduced to one-third.


Welcome to Umihotaru.

Back to Umihotaru, it is a glorified five-story parking lot, measuring 650 meters in length and 100 meters wide, which forms a rectangular man-made island in between the bridge and the underwater tunnel. The parking lot on the first, second and third floor on this man-made island is always full, particularly on weekends and holidays. Shops, restaurants, cafes and amusement facilites occupies the forth and fifth floor.

The man-made island Umihotaru with an observation deck commands a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo Bay and has become one of the most popular scenic points for tourists. Another distinctive cylindrical-shaped man-made island, that uses the bay's almost-constant winds as a power source, houses a ventilation station for the tunnel and is named Kaze-no-tou (風の塔), which means "tower of wind".


The forth floor where there many restaurants are found.


Beautiful paintings on the wall on the fifth floor.

The road was opened on December 18, 1997 after 31 years of construction. The idea of the construction of the highway and Umihotaru was to connect the underdeveloped southern part of Chiba with intensely crowded Tokyo and Kanagawa. However, the development on the Chiba side never took off and it remains totally rural; a world apart from Tokyo although the project which was built at great cost in the middle of the ocean.

Another goal expressed during the planning of the Aqua-Line was to reduce the traffic through downtown Tokyo, but as the highway toll is quite high, the reduction in Tokyo traffic has not been as great as expected.


One of the popular spots at the viewing deck. A perfect place to view the sunset.


With Zoltan from Hungary, at another photography spot on the viewing deck.


Thao Nguyen from Vietnam, who was interviewed by Miss Kasahara, a reporter from Chiba TV.


This may be the final group photo the Chiba Kun Ambassador take together (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


A spectacular view of Umihotaru overlooking the Chiba prefecture side in the background.

Therefore, to save a tunnel and a bridge that people hardly use, a huge entertainment area in Umihotaru was constructed. Although the Aqua-Line is officially built as a rest area for drivers, it is now used by the visitors as a tourist spot. Apart from a number of restaurants that offers a variety types of food, there are also cafes and a viewing deck. In fact, there is even a Starbucks cafe on the artificial island and as far as I know, the only Starbucks cafe in the middle of the ocean.

The viewing deck on the fifth floor is quite a popular spot for plane spotters as Haneda Airport is very close by. On a clear day, especially during winter season, visitors can also spot Mount Fuji in the far background.


Breathtaking sigh of sunset with Mount Fuji clearly visible on the right.
Address: Nakajimachisaki Umihotaru PA, Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture, 292-0071 Japan.
Access: Car: Kisarazu Kanada IC (木更津金田 IC) (from Chiba & Kisarazu); Kawasaki-ukishima JCT・Ukishima IC (川崎浮島 JCT・浮島 IC) (from Tokyo, Yokohama & Kawasaki)
Bus: Kisarazu Station (East exit, bus stop no. 8) (from Kisarazu); Kawasaki station 9East exit, bus stop no. 22) (from Kawasaki)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Visiting The Largest Buddha Statue In Japan

The tour of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors continued after we had a wonderful time picking strawberries in Tateyama and treated to a sumptuous lunch at Banya. The next destination took us to Mount Nokogiri (鋸山), a low mountain on the Bōsō Peninsular. The mountain got its name from its characteristic sawtoothed profile of a Japanese saw, nokogiri (鋸). During the Edo period, this mountain used to be a stone quarry and the marks are still picturesquely evident until today.

If Nokogiri-yama was in Kyoto, another famous tourist attraction in Japan, I am pretty certain that it would be an A-list tourist attraction. Nokogiri-yama has a huge daibutsu (great Buddha Statue) that is twice as big as the most famous versions in Kamakura and Nara, and an incredible relief image of the Kannon Bosatsu carved into the side of a cliff. There are also about 1,500 stone figures scattered along the hiking trail, which combined with the spectacular scenery of the Bōsō Hills and Tokyo Bay, making Mount Nokogiri a popular tourism destination in this part of Chiba.


A signboard at the cable car station on the foot hill of the mountain.

Unfortunately, the location of Nokogiri-yama is out in Kyonan-machi (鋸南町), almost in the middle of nowhere on the Bōsō Peninsular, and it takes about two and a half hours to get there from Tokyo. The western side of the mountain is the site of the sprawling Nihon-ji (日本寺) temple complex.

The temple is accessible by road and by a cable car, the Nokogiriyama Ropeway, which runs from Hamakanaya Station (浜金谷駅) on the JR Uchibo Line to a lookout deck near the top of the temple precinct. Opened in 1962, the oblique distance is 680 meters (2,231 feet) between the stations at the foot and top of the mountain, and the car is served every five minutes. It takes approximately three minutes to reach the station at the top of the mountain.


It costs 500 yen one way for adults. However, there are discounts for children and groups.


The cable car can fit in 41 people at one time, and it belongs to the Keisei Group.


Visitors will get to enjoy the magnificent spectacle of the mountains during the short ride up to the top.

There is an open-air observation deck at the top of the mountain and visitors will get to enjoy the panoramic splendor of the whole Kanto area, Tokyo Bay below, and Mount Fuji beyond the horizon. This breathlessly exquisite scenery and its fresh air from its observatory deck provides a calming effect and it is one of the reasons why this mountain attracts many visitors throughout the year.

In the building at the top of mountain, there are an observation restaurant, free resting room, telescopes, souvenirs corner, game for children. Also, the historical materials on the stone cutting in this mountain are exhibited there.


A great panoramic view of Tokyo Bay. The piece of land in far background is Miura Peninsular (三浦半島)  in Kanagawa prefecture.


Kanaya fishing port (金谷漁港) and the small town of Kanaya (金谷) at the foot of the mountain, facing Uraga Channel (浦賀水道) northwards.


A brief hike along the stony path brought us to the peak of Mount Nokogiri, which proudly stands at 329 meters above the sea level, 
4 meters shorter than Tokyo Tower (332.5 meter).

Besides being a place of scenic beauty, this modestly sized mountain is also a valuable treasure-trove for academic researchers. Geologists and naturalists speak of this mountain as a great museum made by nature.

Our tour at Mount Nokogiri was guided by a volunteer guide, Mr Kazuo Hirashima. Our next stop was to enter Nihon-ji (日本寺) temple complex. The original temple was established in 725, making it one of the oldest in Japan. It is now run by the Soto Zen sect. There are several Buddha statues - big and small scattered around this temple complex. It has some nice paths, which leads from temple to temple. Some of those paths are said to have been used by monks in the past. It is very peaceful and remote place, which makes it ideal for meditations.  


Mr Hirashima giving us a brief introduction about the temple and the places we were gonna visit.


Ready to come face to face with the largest Buddha statue in Japan!

Mount Nokogiri is famous for producing its one of its kind tuffaceous sandstone (凝灰質砂岩) called bōshū-ishi (房州石) since the Edo and Meiji period. This stone was mainly used for constructions and is known for its high quality. The stones were cut out off and formed a characteristic vertical cliff, which their traces can still be spotted at several places today. 

Our first stop was at a monument to soldiers killed in World War II - the Hyakushaku Kannon Buddha (百尺観音) or the Goddess of Mercy.


Wonder what everyone was looking at? (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki)


The magnificent relief image of the Kannon Bosatsu, which stands at 30.3 meters (99 feet) tall.


All of us went crazy to see such an amazing carving of the Kannon haha! (photo credit: Kenichi Ishii)

This carving took six years until it was completed in 1966. The term hyaku means "hundred" and shaku refers to a traditional unit of measurement which is equivalent to 30.3 cm. Therefore, this carving is given the name Hyakushaku Kannon as it measures 30.3 meters high.

It has since been revered as the Buddha to protect the safely of sea navigation, aviation and land transportation. It is two-dimensional, but somehow the way the cliffs tover over us and the lines created by the layers in the rock make it incredibly powerful. It is something which you really have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it.


You wanna take a peek at the "hell"?


Seems that everyone was very excited although we are standing just a few inches away from the cliff (photo credit: Kenichi Ishii).

Right next to the Hyakushaku Kannon carving is the a very interesting spot, called the Jigoku Nozoki (地獄のぞき) or literally, "a peep at hell". The top of the mountain juts like a narrow balcony on which only half a dozen of people can stand. The path to the top of the mountain is rocky and steep but it juts down almost forty-five degrees after that, giving a scary experience for those who have acrophobia like me haha! However, once you're on top there, the view is just splendid. Tokyo Bay can be seen right below and if the weather is good, Mount Fuji is also visible far away.

Exhausted from walking up all the stairs, we walked along a quiet trail that brought us to pass by 1,500 stone figures of Rakan Arhats (阿羅漢), the disciples of Buddha. They are spiritual practitioners who have realized certain high stages of attainment in Buddhism. Each of them is distinctly carved using the stones brought in from Izu by sea (because the sandstone in Mount Nokogiri is not suitable for carvings), differing in facial features, position and clothes, depicting the spirit of eternal benevolence. If you look on them from any point, it seems that some statues are watching you.


Hyakutai Kannon, part of the arhats collection.


Some of them were headless, some with missing limbs, etc..


Chiba Kun Ambassador standing in front of the marvelous masterpieces haha!

The carving work was led by skilled artisan, Jingoro Eirei Ono (大野甚五郎英令) and his 27 apprentices. They devoted their lives to this work, which began in 1779 and ended in 1798, over a period of almost two decades. The stone figures were places among rocks of fantastic shapes and in sacred caves that have been formed by erosion. These images are great treasures to the timple and valuable cultural assets.

Unfortunately, most of them have been destroyed by an Anti-Buddhist movement in the Meiji era, and those left were in a state of ruin until quite recently. Although not all of them are preserved until today, the temple has started a repair campaign to restore these beautiful figures.


A falling tree across the walking trail, which was left to be in its original position.


And it was turned into a piggy bank by some visitors lol!

Our final stop was a giant daibutsu (great Buddha statue) that was completed in 1783. It took the same artisan (Jingoro Eirei Ono) with his team of 27 apprentices, it took them three years to complete this statue. Although it is Japan's largest pre-modern and largest stone carved daibutsu, I find it surprising that this status is hardly mentioned in travel guide books.

Damaged over the years by earthquakes and the elements, this Buddha status was restored in 1969. It depicts the image of Yakushi Ruri (薬師瑠璃), the Medicine Buddha. This daibutsu is carved in a common pose for a Medicine Buddha, with his left hand holding a bowl and his right hand palm upward. Visualization of the Medicine Buddha is said to be good for mental and physical health.


The great daibutsu of Nihon-ji temple.


A close-up shot of the Buddha statue, which is twice bigger than the ones in Kamakura and Nara.


Some brief history and stats about this statue.


Our Mr Ishii attempts to be the fortune teller haha! (photo credit: Yu Yokoo)


A shot with two Chinese Chiba Kun Ambassadors and our guru besar haha!


Group shot with all the Chiba Kun Ambassador in front of the largest Buddha statue in Japan.

Opening hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday.
Admission: ,600 yen (adults, junior high school and above), 400 yen (children 3-5-year-old); there are discount for student groups or those coming in groups.

Address: Nokogiriyama, Kyonan-machi, Awa-gun, Chiba Prefecture, 299-2100 Japan.
0470-55-1103   Fax: 0470-55-1174
Access: Car: Tokyo
(東京) → Kawasaki (川崎) → AquaLine (アクアライン) → Kisarazu (木更津) → Kyonan-hota IC (鋸南保田 IC)
Train: 10 minutes from Hamakanaya Station (浜金谷駅) for rope way; or Hota Station (保田駅) for climbing from the approach, on JR Uchibo Line (JR 内房線).
Ferry: Tokyo (東京)
→ Shinagawa (品川) → Kurihama・Tokyo-wan Ferry (久里浜・東京湾フェリー)  (35 minutes) → Ropeway Sanroku Station (ロープウェイ山麓駅) → Nokogiriyama-chou Tenbodai (鋸山頂展望台)
~ to be continued ~