Monday, October 26, 2009


A 'ryokan' named " KIKOKUSO" at Kyoto was our home for a night. Here we experienced Japanese traditional home stay on its tatami mat floor with sliding doors etc. Not to mention dressed in 'Yukata' before going to the family hot bath

At Nara forty minutes by train from Osaka, we caught this scene of family resting by the scenic landscaped pool with early autumn cool pleasant weather in the air.Thousand of visitors were here on Saturday as Nara is one historic city with legends of its own

Inside our room at Ryokan Kikokuso with the 'futon' laid out for the guests comfort. The beds are folded away and stored during day time. I guess we were used to this in James Bond film before and it becomes a reality now.

It was an appreciation indeed. I have longed instructed my children and grand children to arrange their shoes in order before entering the home. Here the emphasis is more. For shoes meant for use inside the home they are placed pointed in. For those used outside they are placed facing out. We should adopt this. Take a warning!

A toilet in a public garden designed alongside the landscaped compound

They care. Even the tree trunk deserved such treatment allowing it to grow on.

The train station at Kyoto. For JY 540 it takes you from here to Osaka within 50 minutes. It is a hive of activity and you have to learn how to buy tickets from the vending machine besides looking for the platform etc. All notices in Japanese though you hear announcement in English

Another great care for vegetation as well as the hard rock too

The picture taken in early morning. Ryokan charges per person for accommodation and not room and includes breakfast. Generally it's a little higher than hotel rate. This is truly home- stay, cared and entertained by the family. According to the owner there is heavy demand by foreigners making 70% of clients. A reverse of what it was before, This ryokan has been functioning as far back as 180 years ago. It is run by the son and his family members who took over from his father almost forty years ago.

At Nara the extensive park sees hundreds of deer roaming freely.

Need to explain? We are at fish- market of course.

'Jeruk berbagai jenis'. Pickled vegetables of all types for your choice.

Fresh vegetables for sale.

Crabs, giant size too plus all manner of fish you want to pick for the kitchen.

I thought of bringing a bicycle home especially to use as shown here

At the Osaka Castle, you will notice elderly ladies enjoying the pleasures of sketching and painting scenes of the castle, a much enjoyable past time. They have taken a shaded corner to labour their hobby.

Believe me this is the apartment that sheltered us for the days we were at Osaka. It had almost everything for comfort


Visiting another country outside yours is looked forward to by many. H1N1 situation and the current economic world standing are two valid reasons that may put off excursions of such nature for the present. Putting those aside we somehow managed to do so, specifically since we secured two free return seating from Malaysian Airline System sufficient to take us to India, China, Japan etc. We chose to head for the 'Land of the Rising Sun'. This of course came through the 'Enrich Program' by virtue of points accumulated. Not using them would mean they would be forfeited. Then again, we never like to travel on a conducted tour always preferable to be on our own with our programs and schedules. That mean as a start to make sure you have a valid passport and to obtain a visa from the Japanese Embassy or its Consulate at Penang. The Embassy secures your visa within two working days if you satisfy all requests including an indicator that you have sufficient fund. No doubt, Japan is also unduly worried over visitors who entered but remained in the country; failing to make their exits for reasons of their own. Other planning has to be executed before you depart. Only you have to become your own tourism planner.

Japan is the choice but then where to stay, what to see and visit? JAPAN, a publication by Lonely Planet became an introductory choice while information from the world-wide net added a wealth of information before we departed. Choice of accommodation is freely available from hotels, 'ryokan' of varied categories what more with advices or comments from guests who had stayed there before. Pictures and maps helped to make your choice easier and of course the price offered with the various services available. Of course a free Internet service would be a great factor. Availability and reservation is immediate too. Even directions and choice of transportation's are available. Indeed when you arrived, you are already prepared to expect convenience, hopefully.

Osaka and specifically Kansai Airport is six hours away eastward from KLIA. Departing at 11.45 pm meant that we arrived at 7.00 am Japan time: a pleasant and untiring journey that put you at ease to face a new experience.

We made a satisfactory choice by registering at Weekly Mansion Osaka at Otemae for the duration of our six day/5 night stay. It's a new concept stay in an apartment type home with all the facilities of your home: spacious living room, bedroom and all conveniences. Kitchen facilities, free internet, TV and video on hire plus bicycles for rent are all available. Above all at JY52, 600 for the stay, an average of RM 390.00 per night for two persons is a hard price to beat. English speaking desk personnel were of great help when you could only come forth with " ohayo gozaimas", "damo arigato gazaimas" and "konnichiwa" amongst the phrases. Still we found everyone we met helpful.

Our Mr. Ohta the volunteer guide whom we met gave us an excellent introduction to Osaka and especially its train networks. Paying for only JY 200 by train you would be paying JY750 instead by taxi. Still as an old departed friend once said "Your arithmetic is wrong, when you grapple over price etc when you choose to have the best". Indeed he said if you want to have a car then don't ruffle about the mileage and the liter price of petrol'.

Why Osaka? Why not Tokyo? Osaka in the Kansai Prefecture gives you two other cities worthy of visiting: Kyoto and Nara. In fact you have Kobe, Hiroshima and Nagasaki all nearby if your itinerary favors: all familiar names dating back to the Second World War period. Then again autumn would be finer here. Should you wish to see bustling Tokyo, it is only a sixty minutes trip by plane from Osaka Itami at JY22,600 or by the 'Shinkansen' the bullet train from Kyoto at JY13,200 and taking 2 hours 42 minutes. Rail passes available are helpful in many ways.

At the point of writing we have just returned from visiting Nara and Kyoto; two ancient cities with treasures of Japan and more interestingly with a new experience. We chose to spend a night at Kyoto after visiting Nara earlier and significantly stayed in an old Japanese Inn or 'Ryokan'. It's an experience not to be forgotten and more so unbelievably make you wonder or regret to say the least why we do not promote a proper stay in a Malay kampong house? Visiting foreign places are great assets as it opened a new avenue, clicking the mind of new ideas and helping to widen our world view.

View some of the photos taken at Nara, Kyoto and Osaka. You will agree with me the three cities on our eastward fringe are worthy of visiting. We have always looked at cities in the western region, a fallacy built over many decades. Good that convenience traveling allows us to see others, all helping to make our very own a better one if we so desire to do so and innovate for change where possible.

One exceptional mention would be a big 'take off my hat' to the taxi drivers of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto with whom we had the chance to meet and become passengers in their vehicles. They were polished, dedicated and helpful without any qualm of complaining or sounding disappointing. The taxi would halt, the side door opened by itself and we jumped in on white cloth covered seats into a spacious cabin space. The driver mostly senior person in his smart dress and white gloves greets you. You indicate where you would like to go and almost always not understood. You showed a paper or a map with the address. He would consult his map book or even switched on his GPS to find the where about of your intended address. No he would not stop at that, if unable to find the address. He would get on his hand phone with the number given by you to enquire. All inclusive of the service you would get with humility and kindness. Yes I have yet to experience such service even in a country where you could speak and explain quite clearly where you intended to go. Alas never the same. It was exceptional where we are today. "Sayonara" is another word that saying so also put you wanting to discover the beauty of this great island again while suggesting that many of our youth should face eastward and grasped the 'eastward policy' as practiced by the Malaysian Government.

I would like my children to do so. Fortunately one is coming this way next month as he is in the motor industry and hopefully gained from his visit as we did even for a very brief one.

26 October 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The welcome digital screen at Kansai Airport greets you on arrival

It seems to be an outing day for schools as elementary and secondary children
made their educational visits to Osaka Castle and its sites.

Not to miss the colorful crysthemum flowers on display at Osaka Castle we had this photo of my wife with Mr.Ohta our volunteer guide.

Autumn is late in arriving at Kansai but the leaves are already changing their hues.

A scene to savour

Mr.Ohta and me at one of the shopping arcades in the city. Bicycles and cycling are popular here as they were in Malaysia fifty years ago.

IT WAS MANY DECADES AGO, that I first saw a Japanese. Of course he and his colleagues were in Malaya during the Second World War. They were soldiers and certainly brought into the country to launch the Japanese Prosperity Plan of conquering Asia, which they did but lasted for a short span. Of course the child's view was clouded by many factors. Today at Osaka in the Kansai prefecture, I met another, several years older than me but in a more congenial atmosphere. No he is not one of the soldiers that cycled the route north from the Kedah – Thai border to the Island of Singapore, but is a Volunteer Tourist Guide who offered his service to visitors to the Japanese cities and in this case being Osaka.

Viewing the internet I came across an Osaka Tenma Yomiuri SGG Club at Osaka that offered guide service to visitors to Japan and especially Osaka in this case. Correspondence through email, guaranteed that we had the service of a guide. Especially in Japan where you hardly know a word of Japanese or able to converse in either Malay or English with the populace, it would be a great asset to meet someone who could help. In this case Mr. Hideaki Ohta had assured that he would meet us at the hotel where we stayed. This morning prompt at 9.30 am, the telephone in the room rang and he was already at the foyer to meet us and take us on a familiarization tour of Osaka City and taking us especially through myriad networks of the underground trains of the city. That by itself would be the last thing any tourist would like to confront with on the first day.

Mr. Ohta belonged to a group of volunteers in Japan who gave their time and service to serve the tourist industries. They are not money oriented but offered their services literally free of charge. I suppose they gain from the interactions with people from all over the world and proud that they have contributed to the community and to the tourism industry and Japan specifically. That they could converse in the language indicated by the visitors is a true virtue of their assistance; that they are as knowledgeable as the professional tourist guides go a long way. Mr. Ohta was with us for the whole day till we parted with good feelings and friendship late in the evening. I must say this is the first tourist volunteer guide I have come across and had the services offered gratis. Yes free of charge excepting that we pay for our tickets as well as his when we travelled on the train or 'undergrounds' . You have to pay for entries of visitation when required. He entered free being an established and recognized Club member. I would not hesitate to use their services whenever I return to Japan again. I would encourage others to contact them. It is a two way winner: the visitor as well as the volunteer guide. Perhaps Malaysia too has to look at this prospect in wanting to improve its tourism potentials.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Begitulah penghijrahan yang terus berlaku setiap bulan sepanjang tahun. Tanahnya kering kentang, berbukit gondol tanpa tumbuh-tumbuhan. Suhunya tinggi. Jauh sekali dari segala keindahan dan kemashyuran tempat yang digemari oleh pelancong. Tapi kita mahu berulang ke sana. Kawan yang baru balik bermimpi sepanjang hari, ingin terus ke sana lagi. Menikmati segalanya yang tak dimimpi ditempat lain. Mekkah dan Medinah menggamit kita. Tanah suci. Tanah haram. Mulai bulan depan ramai lagi akan menuju ke sana bukan dari negara kita saja tapi dari perusuk dunia. Musim haji tiba lagi dan ramai yang telah bersedia bertahun-tahun kini sudah terbayang kehadiran mereka di-sana.

Keistimewaannya banyak. Lautan rahmat menunggu.Sudah ke-sana masing-masing tahulah segala yang ada. Kepada jumaah haji kita mendoakan kesejahteraan. Antara persedian katanya hendaklah 'mengharuskan' hati. Khutbah Jumaat hari ini menjurus kepada tanah haram Mekkah dan Medinah. Agaknya bulan depan kita mula ke rumah kawan-kawan dan keluarga yang akan berangkat ke sana.


Monday, October 5, 2009


IN ANY LANGUAGE it is devastating and unbelievable. Yet it happened at Padang a seaside town on the western shores of Sumatra Indonesia. Four hundred persons: adults, men and women, children too from a village near the city were totally obliterated when the earth shook, split and pulled all those attending a wedding ceremony at the village into its abyss. Besides, the village mosque's minaret the highest point in the village too disappeared indicating a depth of no less than thirty meters. Not counting hundreds others all over the area and in the town itself.

I have not visited Padang but I have touched down at its airport while on a trip to Bukit Tinggi, a touristic center up on the highlands, famed for its Minangkabau inheritance and culture. Still Padang has its attractions and particularly for Malaysians families. A university at the town is home to many students from Malaysia undergoing medical studies. When the earthquake struck the area with a score of 7.6 on the Richter scale it was enough to wrought worries of their families at home. The immediate evacuation of three hundred or more Malaysian students from Andalas University by RMAF planes helped. In the wake of such disaster help poured in from all corners of the earth. How fast and how ready they are to dig into the rubbles to save those still buried amongst twisted iron and concrete are the hopes of all. Fresh food, water, medicines, clothing and roofing all become necessary at this juncture. Malaysia like other countries offered immediate aid sending in our rescue team ( SMART) and medical personnel.

The severity and intensity of the disaster at Padang did not end there. Other calamities wrecked cities and places in the Philippines with 'Parma' and 'Ketsana' devastating the islands and continuing into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Pacific island of Samoa was crippled by a tsunami that hit the island.

For us that devour the news with much tribulation, its sadness personified thankful that such calamities do not hover over our country. Still our hearts go out to the victims and whatever small contributions we can give will be much appreciated. Already NGO's and newspapers have started collections for assistance. Will you share in giving your contribtion?

An intention to halt the students from returning to their studies at Padang is certainly not a wise decision at this juncture. Don't add insults to injuries. The University has to rebuild itself fast and the loss of its students from withdrawal is the last thing it would like to hear.

Malaysian however has its own terminal disaster. The 'balik kampong' syndrome never failed to strike its ugly head and this year Hari Raya break topped the mark.