At the foot of Mount Maebongsan in the Mapo-gu district of Seoul sits a unique cultural centre. The stark, minimalistic buildings’ of the Oil Tank Culture Park would look at home in a science-fiction movie.Read More
One of the most fascinating places I’ve visited in Seoul was “Seoullo 7017”, a highway redesigned/recycled to be a pedestrian overpass.Read More
In 2004, I was flown to New York City to interview the cast of Troy. Here is a #FlashbackFriday post of the journey, fished out from my old and quite-dead blog.Read More
In this first #flashbackfriday post, I dig up an old post when I was sent to Beijing at the height of the SARS epidemic.Read More
I was really lucky that I had a job that allowed me to travel around the world when I was younger. However, one of my biggest regrets was that I did not keep detailed accounts of those trips. Fortunately, since I have been blogging since 1999, I did sometimes blog about the trips. Starting from today, I'll be reblogging some of these posts here.
This 2001 trip to Tokyo, written in 2004, was one of my first overseas assignments as a rookie reporter and the second foreign country I've ever visited besides Australia. (Singapore doesn't quite count!)
April 14, 2004
But reading through her archives and looking at the pictures she snapped of Tokyo just filled me with nostalgia.
I visited Tokyo three years ago. it was just a week, but Tokyo really left an impression on me. The iconic images you see in anime suddenly became real when you see Japanese school girls with leg warmers stroll the streets of Shinjuku or when you see people at the pachinko machines.
Before visiting the metropolis, all I knew about Japan was: a) anime b) they invaded Malaya in the 1940s and c) grandma said that the Japanese soldiers were nasty.
When I got to Japan, I felt as if I was on another planet. They had computerised toilets, for one. I rememer spending quite some time trying to figure out how to flush the toilet in my hotel room because there were literally twenty touch-pad buttons on this stand next to my toilet. Since I can't read Japanese, it was a purely experimental exercise.
Each button produced interesting results - there was this button which produced a "wave-like" effect in the water (I have no idea what for), then there was a deodoriser option, a seat-drying option, a button which warms the seat of the toilet, and even a button which produces air from goodness knows where.
The Japanese were incredibly interested in my namecards. Unfortunately, I must've offended quite a few executives because I quickly ran out of them.
There were way too many people on the streets. Sometimes, young people would jump at you offering you things to buy. Usually mobile phones or something. Unfortunately, the moment I said something in English, they sped off. Once, while crossing a junction in the city, there was suddenly a thousand people crossing the street at once. I nearly went cross-eyed.
The buildings were huge.
Nothing in Japan seems affordable. I spied a pair of shoes being sold for 50,000 yen. I can't even begin to think how much it must be in ringgit. But shopping appears to be a hobby. Isetan had one building for males and another for females to shop in.
They seem to like umbrellas a lot.
And the food. Maybe it is because I was brought to 'upper' establishments. I really wanted to eat the humble sushi, but got gourmet Japanese food instead. They were ... erhm, restrained in flavour. Let's just say that when I got back to Malaysia, I had a big huge hunger for extra-spicy Hokkien mee (noodles in a spicy, prawn-flavoured soup).
The jams were really scary.
They had multi-tiered highways. Like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Men, I swear this, but every woman in Tokyo seems beautiful. And their clothes sense made me want to hide in a corner.
If I wore skirts as short as some of the students in Tokyo were wearing them, my disciplinary teacher would really have a great time with the ruler with me.
Their houses were beautiful. Immaculate, and neat inside and outside. And did I mention the serenity of Japanese gardens? I was walking in a suburb one day, and in the middle of the maze of houses was a serene Japanese garden with lakes, bridges, and trees. Gorgeous.
Wish I could visit Japan one more time, but honestly, I have to strike a lottery first before I go there.
Afterward: I did manage to visit Japan again. I visited Kyoto, Osaka and then Hokkaido.