Friday, December 16, 2011

Japan Trip Day 6 - Akhibara, Shibuya and Shinjuku

After visiting Aksakusa, we headed down to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime, and otaku goods, including new and used items. (source)

By the time we reached Akihabara, it was raining so heavily that I didn't take a lot of pictures there. And when we entered the first electronic building, we ended up browsing and looking around instead of shopping! LOL.

One thing I noticed about Japanese culture when shopping during rainy days, almost ALL the stores provided umbrella plastic wrapper machines (some don't but still provided the wrappers) to cover the long, wet umbrellas. I guess it's their way to avoid the floors of the stores being wet and also avoid people (there are so many of them!) from slipping and falling down. My theory only. =p

It is here we get to see iPhone 4S.

After Akihabara, we headed to Shibuya, hoping to find some magnets to bring home as souvenirs for our friends back at home. We were disappointed as there were none to be found except Sushi magnets. But at least we met an American man who hailed from Hong Kong and also at Tokyo for InterBee conference.

He greeted me first in front of the UniqLo store where Asraff was dropping by to do his prayers and my roommie went to the bathroom. I believe his name was Paul. (Hehehe.. forgot already!)

Kak Jan, Paul (eh?) and me.
He tried speaking to us in the Malay language and he spoke good enough to amaze us. He also know how to speak Japanese but not as fluent as Asraff. Wow!!! Amazing that we get to meet so many colorful characters during our trip to Japan! Hehehe.

He offered to help us find the magnets and so I let him join us in our quest. Very kind of him! But alas, Shibuya being an area known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area, thus there were no magnets to be found. Sigh.

At least Asraff showed us the crossway where all cars stopped and only the people from all four sides crossed the roads. It was truly a sight to behold!

All cars stood still while the walkers crossed roads.
Being tired and utterly frustrated in not finding the magnets, we headed back to Shinjuku with Asraff and we parted ways with our new friend Paul.

Seeing us feeling demotivated and hungry, Asraff brought us to a place called Siddiq. A muslim restaurant with an Arabic name. It was here that we tasted the most delicious ROTI NAAN in the whole wide world! (being over exaggerated!)

Small chicken though.

This roti Naan costs 11,000 per set!
Being a bit thrifty as funds were really running short, Asraff offered to buy us drinks.


So in the end, we didn't spend any penny on him even though he was our tourist guide. I felt bad about that. LOL. And will definitely repay his kindness once he comes back to Malaysia. InsyaAllah!

When we finally parted at the Shinjuku Station where my friend and I will find our way back to the hotel ourselves, we said our goodbyes and wished him luck.

THANK YOU so muchhhh for your kindness!!! 
So that ends Day 6 in Japan.

Thankyou for reading!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Japan Trip Day 6 - Asakusa, Tokyo's historic site.

After introducing ourselves to our Malaysian tourist guide, we then headed our way to Shinjuku Subway Station where we'll be using an ALL-DAY train ticket that costs only 710 yen. This means we could get on any train on the Tokyo Metro Line for 24 hours with only one ticket! ^^

And that's a very good money saver option to travel around Tokyo, Japan. =)

The first stop for the day was a place called Asakusa. Details on it is read below.

Asakusa (浅草) is the center of Tokyo's shitamachi (literally "low city"), one of Tokyo's districts, where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives.

Asakusa's main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. (source)
It was raining heavily that day. We managed by buying lutsinar umbrellas from the Nakamise Shopping Street which is situated just outside the Sensoji Temple. If you're lucky, you could buy an umbrella with the bargain price of only 250 yen. A much cheaper option compared to some outlets that sells it almost triple the price!

 Kaminarimon (雷門) or "Thunder Gate"
This entrance features a much-photographed giant lantern and statues of guardian gods Raijin (god of thunder) and Fujin (god of wind). First built in 942, the gate has been destroyed numerous times and the current incarnation dates to only 1950. The Nakamise shopping arcade leading up to the temple starts after the gate. (source)

Despite the rain, we were blissfully happy. LoL.

The whole view of the Thunder Gate.
I read somewhere that Asakusa was once the main entertainment district for Tokyo but now the role goes to Shinjuku. You could read about the golden years of Asakusa being vividly portrayed in Yasunari Kawabata's novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (1930; English translation, 2005). But then the area was heavily damaged by US bombing raids during World War II, particularly the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo. After the war it was rebuilt but has long lost its golden years. Now it stands as the most historic part of Tokyo to showcase its past glories.

Me and Asraff pictured outside the Sensoji Shrine.
Inside the Sensoji Temple is a very golden Shrine. People made offerings here by throwing coins into a fountain inside the temple. Even the doorknobs of the shrines were golden. Asraff says that the shrine is made from REAL GOLD and was built using the offerings that the people made.


Real gold ehh??? Why no perompak? 
As seen in the above picture, the golden shrine is behind a grilled, window. No access allowed perhaps. We could only see from outside.

We soon made our way to the outside of the thunder gate which holds the Nakamise shopping arcade where one can shop for souvenirs, many traditional Japanese collector items and also the renowned silk kimonos. Which regrettably none was bought by me due to shortage of funds. HUHU.

Heading out of the Thunder Gate.
Seen below are the colorful vastness of the items on display, outside the shops of Nakamise.

Also sells Ninja costumes. 
The streets is ever so bustling with people despite the heavily pouring rain. Even though this place is deemed as a TOP tourist place in Tokyo but I didn't see many foreigners there. We were basically surrounded by Japanese people and seemed we were the only tourists there. LOL.

Do see any tourists?
After much sight-seeing and shopping, we then stopped for lunch at some cafe that Asraff recommended. Not exactly a HALAL restaurant but they serve no pork there and so it's deemed safe for consumption.

I forgot the name of this lunch set. But the fish was delicious!
Asraff did his Zuhur prayers right there in the shop after lunch! A good example for muslim students abroad. So kudos to his stand in religion. Much appraised by my friend. =)

After lunch, we headed to Shibuya and Akihabara. More on that later.

Thank you for reading!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Japan Trip Day 5 - A Very Malaysian Tourist Guide and iPhone 4S

Our fifth day was more relaxing. It was a cloudy Saturday morning when we stepped outside. And it was our first meeting with a Malaysian guy studying at Japan who volunteered to be our tourist guide that day.

I would say we were lucky to get to know this guy. First communicated with him through twitter after I posted a blogpost on the difficulty of going to Japan which later was RT'ed through twitter. Remarkably enough, this guy humbly replied my plea for help and offered help. And he wasn't even on my friend-list. LOL!

He was basically a complete stranger who initially thought I was a GUY. (Another LOL!)

Later-on I found out that he was a blogger too and is from Kelantan. Had to make sure the background of the people we meet overseas for safety measures, right? And after several online conversations, I finally decided that he is in fact a decent person to meet-up. =)

So here I'd like to introduce our tourist guide who comes with the name Asraff  Jeffrey with twitter handler @cerahjeff. He wore his Harimau Malaya jersey when he came to meet us that day at the hotel's lobby. Very Malaysian don't you think? Hehe.

Asraff toying with the iPhone 4S.
He brought us to many 'MUST VISIT' places around Tokyo and even brought us to dine at some local HALAL restaurants. But I'll blog about that later. I want to focus on him and iPhone 4S, already in stores in Tokyo!

You know what this means? LOL. It's the pricing of iPhone 4S.
Through Asraff, I learnt that Malaysian students prefer having iPhone compared to other phones because its easy to:
  • use GPS to know the places around you
  • could install kiblat compass to know kiblat anywhere and perform your prayers
  • long battery life
  • and besides, its quite cheap if bought under the telco agreement overseas. Basically FREE! LOL!
So if the students overseas get their hands on iPhone 4S for half the price... and then try selling it back in Malaysia....

... just imagine the profits they gain.


Below is the reply the SIRI application gave when Asraff asked 'How are you?". The phone was already set for Jane (presumed owner, I guess).

Trying the voice detection application.
Oh well, I have no desire to own iPhone yet. Let alone the newest version.

Just wanted to introduce our tourist guide and iPhone 4S before blogging on the places we visited that day.


Thanks for reading!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Japan Trip Day 4 : Tokyo Disneyland

On our third day at Makuhari Messe for the Inter BEE event and our fourth day in Japan, we decided to go back early and stop by Tokyo Disneyland on our way back. It was already half past three but we were determined to enter Disney even-though the time will be limited to try ALL the rides.


We only had to stop at the JR Maihama Station from JR Kaihin Makuhari Station which is only a few stops. When we first landed our feet on the cobblestones leading up to the magical land of Disneyland, we couldn't help being childish and giddy all over. All mentions of work was stopped as we merrily went our way to buy the entrance tickets.

Here at last! Though the weather wasn't faring well.
The prices of the tickets are the same for both local and foreign visitors, costing at only 6200 Yen. (which is equivalent to RM250). The girl at the counter seems to know little English as the only word she said that I understood was 'English'. LoL.

Tickets along with the map of the surrounding area.
Once inside, we were greeted with a HUMONGOUS Christmas tree. We really felt that we were in a Christmas Wonderland. Many visitors were taking pictures of themselves with the decorated tree but we couldn't bare to lose time as there were dozens of attractions to visit and experience.

HUGE Chistmas tree!
I was surprised to see an English woman clad in the infamous Mary Poppins costume greeting the visitors as they pass by. And believe me, she didn't speak a word of Japanese!!! It was British accent all the way. Charmingly delightful in a way. ^^

"Ah yes, let's fly with my magical umbrella!" 
Since it was nearing the Christmas season, they had parades within the park held two times a day. One during the daytime and another during the night time. Both parades were different, as the latter had lights and fireworks. =p

Alas, we didn't stop to sit down and enjoy the parade either as we were focused at the task in hand. Must ride on as many rides as possible and enter as many theaters too!

Very crowded as people stopped in their tracks to watch the parade go by.
It was nearing night time and we successfully rode on twice as many rides as expected. We played well past 10 pm. LOL.

Tokyo Disneyland is divided into SEVEN main areas.

  • Adventureland
  • Critter Country
  • Fantasyland
  • Tomorrowland
  • Toon Town
  • Westernland
  • World Bazaar
It was at the Country Bear Theatre in the Westernland Area did we chance upon an Indonesian speaking Japanese women who goes with the name Izumi. 

Picture taken with Izumi and her two sons. Her mother helped snap this picture.
Overjoyed to finally being able to communicate with a Japanese person, we immediately chattered amiably throughout the whole Bear Singing Theater experience. yes.. we got to watch bears in costumes singing Christmas Songs. A delightful experience. =)

All in all, most of the rides were for kids but we enjoyed it anyway. Immensely!

It was sad to leave Disneyland when almost half of it was left unexplored.

Maybe next time? Next time I must get there by 8 am to fully explore the whole theme park. Huhu.

Thank you for reading!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Japan Trip Day 3 : Kebab Halal @ Makuhari Messe

From the first day we stayed in Tokyo, Japan, my roommate and I resorted to munching on dried biscuits and Maggi as means to curb hunger. Our stay at the hotel didn't include breakfast and it still costs us RM500++ per night.LOL.

But finding out that there was a Halal restaurant just in the Makuhari area where the conference was held has delighted us more than words can say. You could simply put it as 'in the state of oblivion'!

We first went there right after the conference on the 1st day to avoid rush hour and went AGAIN for the 2nd time for lunch. Hahaha... we thought we'd never find another HALAL food after that!

It was a LONG walk from Makuhari Messe to AEON Makuhari Shopping Center.
Seen from the above map (source), the train station that we stopped at is named JR Kaihin Makuhari. It takes about 10 minutes to get from the station to Makuhari Messe. So imagine how long it takes from Makuhari Messe to AEON Makuhari Shopping Center.

Approx  20 - 30 ++ minutes!!! Maybe more...=p

Japan is famous for its various exquisite oriental food. Too bad it isn't halal. T_T

So only one restaurant was lucky to have us that day. It is located at the second floor food-court inside the AEON Makuhari Shopping Center. (refer to map above)

Named Star Kebab

The guy who was on duty that day was a friendly Arabic guy (me think he's Arab). And he cheerfully explained that some of the menus were halal and some non-halal.

My roommie was a bit skeptic when she heard they were serving two types..

Soon enough we understood what the guy meant by browsing the menus.

Can you differentiate which meal is Halal and which is not?
OK.. maybe not...

Look closer...

Now can you see the HALAL word? LOL.
The guy explained that the food was not labeled Halal because the cow meat used in it was imported from New Zealand (eh? or was it Australia) and it's source is unknown. While the meat labeled Halal in the menus were all chicken based food. This means no cow meat for me. Huhu. And hell YES to chicken!!! Pssst... forgot to mention.. he showed us that BOTH MEAT were handled SEPARATELY. Nice!

Here's a picture of the cute guy (eh?) smiling for the camera. =p

Cute ehhh??? Hope he doesn't read this blog. HAHA.
My friend instantly declared him as my new boyfriend in Japan. LOL. Without his knowledge of course. Oh well... when food is involved, I don't mind being the object of ridicule anymore. hehehe..

Especially when I get to eat FOOD like below.......

Finally... food I can eat without HESITATION  in JAPAN!!!

I basically goggled up all the food without any care of the world! We had a few glances from onlookers mostly because we were the only Hijabi garbed women in the food court. HAHA! Well who cares?


OK... enough of Day 3. Sorry for the very late update. I had to balik kampong due to unforeseen reasons. Do forgive me. Have 3 more days to blog about! Till then...

Thankyou for reading!!!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Japan Trip Day 2: Makuhari Messe

Continuing to our second day at Japan.

We woke up with sunlight streaming through our windows. I was having my PMS and didn't expect to wake up too early. Hehe. But my roommie got frustrated for not being able to do her subuh prayers. The time difference here was only late one hour from Malaysia but sun rose earlier than 4:30 am.

We woke up around 7:30 am. =p

The day was bright and magnificent. Just outside of our hotel, trees were prime in their autumn gloom. People say that autumn is the best season among the four seasons. And I have to agree on that when I spotted the view outside.

Weird, no cars to cause jems around here.
We were welcomed by the sight of empty roadways. Where did all the cars gone to?

The view was just breathtakingly beautiful. Sigh!
We had to walk our way to the nearest subway station and that took us about 10 minutes. It wasn't that near as expected. A map of the area was asked from the Foreigner counter down at the lobby. With that map, we made our way to Shinjuku Subway station using the underground route.

Almost at every corner we found machines like below to buy drinks on the go.

1200 yen per bottle.

This is among the few types of food machines around Tokyo. 
I preloaded a map of the Tokyo's subway onto my iPad. But that too deemed difficult for us to understand as the subway systems here were a bit confusing.

We actually didn't know which train station to go as there were like soooooooooo many subway lines. I initially planned to go on the Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Tokyo station and from there use Keiyo Line to Makuhari Messe. But we couldn't find the Chuo Line at all!!! 

It was after much asking around did we realize that the map on my ipad was actually for JR Lines only. And the Chuo Line and Keiyo Line were under JR Lines. Confusing right? 

I could summarize that there are THREE main subway lines in Tokyo
  • Tokyo Metro Line
  • Toie Line (Tokyo Metropolitan Government)
  • JR Lines
Knowing the colors for each line would be most helpful for newbies to Tokyo, Japan. =(

There are two types of trains to our destination. Rapid (left) or Local (right).

If you could get onto the rapid Trains.. you'll be able to reach your destination with only 2-3 stops. And faster with that! And try to avoid rush hours as things could get squishy.

This is not squishy enough. 
Using the JR Lines enabled us to ride to Makuhari Messe with only one ticket and with two trains whie transiting at Tokyo station.

Changing trains at Tokyo Station, had to find the Keiyo line first.
I never expected that in order to reach Keiyo Line from our drop off from Chuo Line, we had to go down three flights of stairs and three (me think) walking escalators. It took us about 15 minutes to go through all of that!!!

Just follow the ORANGE lines! 
When at last we reached Makuhari Messe, my friend was out of breath and our feet were aching! LoL. We hoped that the journey here has taken some kilograms off our weight.

Finally here at last!!!
The building was white and there were various banners outside it to showcase the many broadcast equipments being exhibited here.

Can't wait to get inside! It was freezing outside!
We had to rush to the International Conference Hall as the conference was being held there.

Just follow the signboards. 
When we finally registered at the counter, we were each given a name card to hang around our necks. There was a bar scan on the cards for them to scan for prove of attendance. Wow! Advance gittewww! As we were quite late (bikin malu sehh! haha), in the hall itself we were led to sit at the VERY FRONT of the conference room. Waahhh... reserved seats for both of us. Malu masuk lambat wei! Oh well. Pasrah jelah.

One of the content special session that I personally enjoyed that day was entitled "Unlimited Potential of Movie Production and its Future" because the renown Hollywood film-maker Mr Gareth Edwards was one of the panelists!

Mr Gareth Edwards at the far right!
Gareth Edwards was famous for making the movie MONSTERS with a little crew of only 4 to 5 members!!! It was budget saving and his movie was a blockbuster hit in cinemas worldwide. The movie Monsters were edited using the newly enhanced Adobe movie editing suite. They talked mostly on how visual effects would soon be widely used to cut costs and bring in more revenue.

He's sooo cute!!!!!!!!!!! *awwwwwwwwwww!!
The other panelists spoke in the Japanese Language but fortunately for non-speakers like me, I was given a device to hear the direct translation of each Japanese speaking panelist.

Meanwhile, outside the conference hall there were a total of 6 Halls that exhibit all kinds of broadcasting equipment and technologies.

This Hall  (Hall 8) was specifically for Visual Production equipment.
We had a breakdown communication problem as almost 90% of the exhibitors didn't speak English. LoL. Except for the young lad below.

He spoke with a British accent y'all!
Overall, we had an eventful day. I get to meet the director of NHK (Japan's TV station) and also the excutive director of Singapore's TV station. He was sitting on my right during the conference. A very friendly man who always smile, nice. Hee..

Oh before I end my entry for the second day.... lemme share my favorite picture of Makuhari Messe surroundings. (Not really the building.. just the buildings surrounding it. LoL)

Beautiful day right?
OK.. wrapping up my second day at Japan.

Thank you for reading. =)


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Japan Trip Day 1: Touchdown at Japan

This whole golden opportunity to fly to Tokyo, Japan and stay there for 5 nights was my boss's idea. The director of the government body that I work with has kindly recommended me along with two other co-workers to attend an international conference held at Makuhari Messe, Japan.

And boy was I excited!

Being the youngest among the three, I was assigned to do all the paperwork, hotel reservations and route planning in order for our journey to Japan to go smoothly. I had some setbacks especially when it comes to applying the budget and visa applications, but God was kind to me and everything become alright.

I got scared when precondition for Japan visa was to have RM10,000 in your savings account. By golly!
Applying the budget was another thing. Thankfully it was fully sponsored by my workplace but I had to plan within the approved budget. How much? That's a secret! *wink2x!

In order to cut costs, we had to fly via AirAsia instead of our official carrier which is MAS. Sorry MAS... AirAsia was just so cheap compared to your fares for the same destination. So Haneda Airport here we come!!!

Walking to the airplane has never felt so good! Kah kah kah!
I don't know any word of Japanese and had to download some Japanese Language for beginners onto my iPad just to pass my time on the 7 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo, Japan. 7 hours!!!! Mygosh!!! But alas... I slept mostly on the way. LoL!!!

And finally...

TOUCHDOWN at Haneda Airport, Japan!

See my flight number from Kuala Lumpur?
We met some friendly Malaysians who were on the same flight as we were waiting for our luggage. For them it was like the 10th time they've been here, as for me.. it was my first. Haha. Jakun aku wei!

And while we figured out on how to get to our hotel, we took pictures with the nice Japanese lady who assisted us. We learnt how and where to buy the airport limousine tickets and which port to go to. The Japanese people working at the information counter were very helpful and cheerful even though the time was about 11 pm.

"Arigato gonzaimasu!"
I wouldn't say that the ticket price was cheap, considering it only took about 40 minutes to the hotel via bus. 1200 yen y'all!! That's equivalent to RM55.00!

They have the same ticketing procedure with Seoul, Korea.
After we bought the tickets, we were stopped by Japanese police men who insists on questioning us. That was one welcoming I felt uncomfortable with. =(

Maybe because we wore hijabs?
It was a relieve when we finally were let go to resume our trip to our hotel.

A TV screen to show the routes the bus would  go through.
Fair enough, the signages around Haneda Airport was helpful. And we didn't get lost in finding our way to the bus stop. 

When we finally reached the Shinjuku Washington Hotel, we got confused because when we stepped into the building, there was no lobby on the first floor. A guy passed by and suggested we went upstairs. We had to bring our heavy luggage up the escalator to search for the lobby. We couldn't find any lift. It was only on the 3rd floor that we finally found the lobby's signboard. Ishhh... menyusahkan. Would've been nice if there was a signboard downstairs to ease foreigners. 

Our room was on the 19th floor with its window facing the streets of Shinjuku. Everything was in a minuscule scale.  The room, the bed... even the bathroom was mini despite having a bath tub which was also tiny. Can't lay down fully in that one!

Bathrobes were placed on the foot of each bed.
We went organizing our stuff. Just below hooks meant for the hangers of our clothes, we piled up our food stocks for the week. LoL!

Maggi anyone?
There wasn't enough leg room for praying and we had to move a sitting chair away, just to make room! It was funny to remember that my roommate has changed her kiblat three times before settling for one. I advised her to throw her useless compass away since it kept showing different directions! LoL!

Minuscule bathroom with an electronic toilet seat!
And behold!! Our OPEN closet!

Just hook em up!
All in all, paying a hefty RM500++ per night in a small hotel room like this in Japan makes us feel thankful for the equally priced but overly spacious hotel rooms back in Kuala Lumpur.

Sempit tahu tak?
On a positive note, we received FREE internet LAN access. Just have to bring a laptop that can access to LAN as there's no Wi-Fi. Plus there's a hairdryer and electric kettle. 

And with all that I've written, I'll call it quits for the day.

Until another post... tata!

Thankyou for reading. =)