The Japan Rumble: Day 6 – Debriefing

Based on my 6 days trip, here’s how I found Japan overall and made some (fair or unfair) comparisons to Malaysia, in no particular order. I’m just going to say it as it is here in point forms, without being biased in my review, so here goes…

So, What Did I Learn About Japan?

1. The first thing I noticed when I landed on Japanese soil was a drop in temperature. It was about 21 degree Celcius when I was spending my first night in Tokyo, and it was a few more degrees less when I headed down to the Fukushima prefacture (17 – 19 degree Celcius, less at night).

2. The Bullet Train – truly a remarkable invention! The distance between Tokyo (the part I came from) and Fukushima is probably similar to Kuala Lumpur -> Johor Bahru, and it took only 1.5 hours to cover the distance. While one may not be able to feel the speed and pressure from inside the train, occasionally one can feel ‘something’ the ears and if seen from outside, the Bullet Train moves at a frightening speed.

3. I must have said this many times to some of my friends by now, but I am motivated to repeat it again here. I understand that there are different types of people that one will find in just about any group, society or nation, but if I am to generalize the Japanese people I find them to be an exceedingly polite bunch. They truly treat their customers like kings, and making acknowledgments or smiles is a social customary and norm. 🙂

4. Also worth noting that in spite of the cold weather, the girls wear rather short skirts and high stockings. 😉 Perhaps they are very used to the 4 seasons which unlike in Malaysia where we have only 3: hot, hot, and hotter.

5. Schools – students here go to school 7 days a week! And I thought that Chinese schools were already extreme with their length of school hours.

6. $1.00 = 105++ yen. So to sum it up easily, 1 Japanese Yen is almost likened to 1 American cent. However, things in Japan are costly as I have been told (and warned) by many. To give you a rough idea: the average McDonald’s meal costs around 650 Yen. That’s almost $6.50 or 22.10 MYR ($1.00 = 3.4 MYR).

7. While the cost of living is high, employees overall are compensated with high weekly pays and salaries. The average employee brings home $800 – $900 a week, and the managers and employees that belong to the higher levels of a company are expected to make more.

8. The employee job security is different altogether though, and this is where it differs from most other countries: most employees sign a limited time contract of say, 3 – 9 months (or more, whatever the figure is) and after the contract with a company expires, they have to go out and look for another job again. Suffice to say, job security isn’t good here.

9. Japan is populous – 180 – 190 million people population.

10. ATM machines are more rare here. While I could find an ATM machine in almost every 7-11 store (very common here), people here believe in carrying more cash around. The average Japanese carries about easily $1,000-2,000 in cash in their wallets.

11. Night life isn’t that happening even when I was in Tokyo for 2 nights (first and last night here). This is where Malaysia beats Japan BIG TIME. 🙂

12. Food choices aren’t many and as diverse either compared to back in Malaysia – mostly Japanese food, some Western and some Korean. In Malaysia, you can eat food from almost any culture – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Thai, Vietnam, Western, Japanese, Korean… did I miss anything out?

13. It’s a bummer that I couldn’t speak Japanese. Otherwise I wouldn’t have passed up the chance to interact with the people here and find out more fun facts about Japan. Even though I could only speak a word or two in Japanese, people here are easily approachable. And when approached, they generally do not have ulterior motives.

14. On the other hand, Japanese people have no or little command of English too which I think was a waste, otherwise I’d love to talk to some of them more. With the exception of hotel, posh areas and better parts of the city, the general crowd doesn’t speak English.

15. In retrospect, my initial fear before going to Japan was a racism issue. To my understanding (World War II and how a few movies portrayed it) Japanese and Chinese people don’t get along with each other well. Fortunately that was un-found, at least from the amount of people I’ve met there so far. Interesting to note also, people there look quite similar to the Chinese crowd back here in Malaysia so there was that ‘homely feeling’ even in foreign land.

16. Onsen or Natural Hot Spring – aaaaah, good one! 🙂 We sampled the hot spring up in the mountains of Fukushima and it was rejuvenating, needless to say. The smell of sulfur was a put-off though. LOL

17. Internet connection speed here is extremely fast too – I uploaded a few 50 meg YouTube videos for my previous posts (since they were all in MOV format) and it took only minutes. Wouldn’t had been possible to achieve that on Streamyx, even though on both occasions the speed read 100.0 mbps.

18. Bleach, Naruto and Death Note are exceptionally popular Anime and Manga works here, though there are gazillions more that I was not aware of. At every book shop and turning I make, I could almost expect to see either or more of them.

19. Most of the signs here are written in Japanese Kanji so admittedly, I was frustrated when it comes to going around here as I couldn’t read a word, and there were few English signs – usually reserved for hotel or posh areas.

20. In spite of being notoriously known for poor English a.k.a. Engrish, I have yet to see any signs or published works with significantly funny English.

21. It is very common for people to use bicycles here – whether you’re going to school or work.

22. I’ve been to Central Tokyo and Fukushima and I’ve so far found the place to be unusually clean! It’s a wonder since I noticed that public trash cans are not that common here. Shame on Malaysia – even though we have ample trash cans placed on almost every street, many of us still choose to discard our trash on the street (but I’m not one of them). Speaking of trash cans, they are organized in that too – they have divided the trash cans into compartments for cans, papers and others.

23. I also noticed that their taxi models are the same as the ones used in Singapore.

24. Majority of the people here are of the Buddhist or Shinto religion whereas Christians of all nominations only form 2% of the population.

25. Vending Machines – the way of life. Vending machines are very, very common here. Apparently, there is 1 vending machine for every 26 people living in this country. And the vending machines are more sophisticated and sells a wider variety of items other than just drinks and snacks. My sister, Ashley, has been in Japan around the same time last year too and she told me that vending machine vandalism is almost unheard of here. People here depend on vending machines like we do on oxygen for living. 🙂


I really like Japan for its place and the people have really, really impressed me. (FYI I’m not an easy person to impress)

I have to admit that I didn’t really look back to go back to Malaysia, at least so soon, even though I had a tiny regret of not preparing myself better i.e. learn up some basic Japanese and pan a better plan to visit more places.

All in all even though many have said that traveling to Japan is expensive, I found the experience to be PRICELESS. I am definitely considering re-visiting Japan again. 🙂

Oh Yes, Before I Forget…

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the following people:

James Brown and Mari Wakamatsu – for inviting me to Japan in the first place. 🙂 Also, a hearty congratulations on being officially wed!

James B Allen – for being kind and generous, especially on my second last day here in Japan. You helped me secure a hotel room and reserved a shuttle bus to the airport. Yeah I was nervous since I couldn’t read or speak Japanese!

Frank Bauer – without this guy the trip won’t be half as fun. 😉

Fidens Felix – nice meeting you for the first time. This man is the Karaoke King!

Mr. and Mrs. Brown (James Brown’s parents) – nice meeting you too. and Mr. Gylnn Brown, thanks for joining the group in picking me up from the airport on the first night I came.

Stuart Stirling – for taking time off and driving us around Fukushima outskirts. 🙂

Pete Leong – I look forward to the photos you’ve snapped on the wedding day! 🙂

UPDATE 11th October – new photos from James & Mari’s wedding here.

And everyone else I’ve forgotten to mention here as well… thanks for making the trip an awesome, unforgettable one! 🙂


The Japan Rumble: Day 5


It’s my second last day in Japan, and the last day we all hang out together before we part ways. We took one last drive into the country side and explored other areas before we had our final lunch together and head our own directions.

Nice emerald lake Big fishes! Emerald lake Us

Everything at the market is huge too! Inside one of the morning markets Dried grasshoppers, anyone? Stuart, Frank and James

Hanging out at the morning market The market Going into the long tunnel Last lunch together

Spending the Last Night in Tokyo

Frank Bauer and I were the last men standing after we bid farewell to the rest of the gang back in Fukushima. James Brown and Stuart S. belong there. Fidens had to part ways somewhere in Tokyo and James Allen was generous enough to take time off and helped me secure a room at the Shinagawa Hotel and made arrangements with the Shuttle Bus to the Narita airport for me. (thanks a bunch, JA!) 🙂

Soon with JA heading back to the rice fields, Frank and I walked around Central Tokyo, taking pictures and yes we can proudly say “we’ve been here before!” 🙂

Busy Central Tokyo Central Tokyo In the residential area Frank Bauer

Holding a piece of the skyscraper ;-) Outside Shinagawa Train Station - East Building Edmund Frank outside Sony Main HQ Building

Tokyo at night

Shinagawa Hotel

Frank was the last person in the gang I see and from the last night on, I was already on my own – all the way until the next day (Day 6) when I would board the MAS to fly back to Malaysia.

I think I got myself a good deal here – Shinagawa Hotel is reputedly to be a top-tier hotel, one of the top 10 in Tokyo. WOW! 🙂

Room Room

No wonder it was pricey though – 16,000 yen a night (around USD160 a night)!

To be continued… the next post will be the final account on the Japan trip! 🙂

The Japan Rumble: Day 4

Things were a little bit different today. This time, the six of us – me, James Brown, James Allen, Frank Bauer, Stuart Stirling (rented the SUV) and Fidens Felix – took a drive in the country side of Fukushima. It was beautiful and you can’t get a view and cool weather like that in Malaysia, Cameron Highlands just don’t stand a chance to rival it.

We went off road, dip ourselves in the Onsen (hot spring), took some awesome pictures of the scenery… you name it. Again, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 🙂

Stuart cruising us around… The Crew at the back… My only meal before we went for a country side drive ……

James, James, Stuart Edmund @ country side Fukushima … Don’t know what it says Frank

The rented SUV Fidens and Frank’s butt :-P Awesome view… More breath taking view

Edmund JA, Frank, JB, Edmund (me), Stuart Frank trying to help Fidens put on the seatbelt from the back Statue - off road trip

James Allen, Ruffier and Boy Scout Fidens and Edmund By the waterfall James Brown and Edmund

The group hanging around the rocks Me… again! :-) Group Photo Frank couldn’t take it anymore after hiking back up… K.O.

Barbeque, Hanging around Fukushima Town & McDonald’s

Edmund, Frank, James Allen Our group Grilling beef… More… More!

At Daikoro Uhm… you make your own guess. ;-) Wearing high socks is the only way to go At McD’s at night

To be continued…

The Japan Rumble: Day 3


James Brown’s & Mari Wakamatsu’s Wedding

28th September. Big day for James and Mari. Also the main alibi reason I came to Japan to see one of my closest business associates get officially married to a beautiful girl. 🙂

Our gang and James’ family hitched a bus ride up to St. Anna’s church in the mountains at almost 11 in the morning. The bus stopped for Mari’s friends on the way, too. All of us arrived on time and the wedding ceremony went on smoothly starting 12 in the afternoon, and followed by a filling barrage of meals for lunch. 🙂

I won’t bore you with the details (partly because I’m too lazy to type right now) so just feast your eyes on these pics…

Going up the Bus: Frank Bauer & Edmund Loh Rodney Mari’s Cute Girlfriends!! St. Anna’s Church

James Brown “The” Man Inside the Church After the Ceremony: Brown, Mari and Their Family Edmund Loh & Frank Bauer

Rodney, Katherine, Jamieson - One Happy Family! The Girls… Again Japanese Traditional Music Performance Slide Show: James when he was a young, naughty punk ;-)

Slide Show: Mari when she was small, sweet and adorable ;-) In Kimono! Edmund with James & Mari Edmund Loh with Stuart “Tin Tin” Stirling

Edmund and Fidens Felix (originally from Indonesia, now stays in Tokyo) L-R: Fidens, Frank, Edmund, Stuart L-R: Fidens, James Allen, Frank, Edmund (me) James & Mari

Edmund with James & Mari - 2nd time L-R: Fidens, Edmund (me), Stuart, Frank

Party #2 – Karaoke

Okay NOW we’re going to the really fun part of the day night. Here, let’s kick it off with a quick intro to Pete Leong. Pete is James’ long time acquaintance and his bestman for the wedding. He snapped up quite a lot of photographs throughout the day, hope to get some from him soon on FaceBook or Flickr. No surprise; he’s a professional photographer. Go check out his website 😉

Pete Leong

FYI he’s half-Chinese Australian so that explains his Chinese surname. Like James Brown, James Allen, Stuart Stirling, and Fidens Felix, they’re all staying in Japan. I wonder why… 😉

So what we all did next, we had another round of party gathering right here in the Tatsumiya Hotel and after that, we went to the Karaoke to have some more fun.

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And here are a couple of YouTube videos as well – the short videos we took from the Karaoke session:

And to Wrap it Up…

I gave the newly “officially” wed couple the collection of gifts from some of us back in Malaysia – Khai & Yuenn, Ladan, and myself of course.

James & Mari

Theeeere you go! CONGRATULATIONS, James and Mari! 🙂 We wish you all the best and happiness in your marriage and we hope that your happy union will last forever.

James, take good care of Mari.

Mari, let James take good care of you. 😉

To be Continued…

The Japan Rumble: Day 2

Breakfast at McDonald’s

Want a healthy start in the day? Choose McDonald’s Breakfast. 🙂

McDonald’s, Japan

Yep, our group ate some McD’s after we checked out of Dandy Hotel, and before we head down to Fukushima by Bullet Train. Granted, 80% of the food in the menu are similar to what you can find in almost every McDonald’s outlet from around the world but the Japanese outlets have one thing you cannot find in our local outlets back in Malaysia (or perhaps anywhere else)…

… the crew consists of mostly hot chicks! 🙂 No kidding, and this is what I found to be consistent after visiting a few different McD’s outlets later!

Bullet Train Ride to Fukushima (1.5 hours)

Having used to frequent trains on a daily basis when I was working full-time as an office boy back in 2004, I couldn’t help but compare our trains to the Japanese ones. Not a fair comparison I know, almost like comparing apple to oranges, or rather snail to cheetah. That’s exactly HOW advanced the Japanese train systems are. Being inside the Bullet Train, one couldn’t feel the speed or pressure from within. But if you would look from the outside, which I did…

WOW, the Bullet Train zoomed by with frightening speed! The group caught me with my jaw dropped open. LOL!

Central Gate Tokyo Edmund Loh and Mr. Brown The Station Master @ Fukushima Station Fukushima Train Station

Boy Scout in Fukushima Town

Once we settled down in Fukushima, we stayed at the Tatsumiya Hotel. We had a quick lunch nearby and for the rest of the day time, I scouted around town alone. Temperature here is colder than in Tokyo i.e. 17 – 19 degree Celcius, and it gets colder by night. The day is shorter than the night at this time of the year, and it gets dark by around 5:30.

Snacking Out at the Japanese Restaurant Following James Allen & Frank Bauer Getting Comfy at the Tatsumiya Hotel p1040639.jpg

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There are less people here compared to Tokyo and the outskirts of town had fewer people. In general, the Japanese people are nice and I would consider them exceedingly polite. 🙂 It is customary for people to exchange bows and be very polite – not an understatement by any measure.

It is also easy to strike up a conversation with people here, which made me felt rather regretful not learning at least basic Japanese to get around on my own. Most of the people here speak little to no English at all. A pity, otherwise I’d love to ask them LOTS about Japan! 🙂

Crime rarely happens here, in this part of Japan at least. Another bonus.

Dinner with Brown Family & Friends

Dinner with the Brown Family & Friends

L-R: Frank Bauer, Edmund Loh (me), Mr. Brown, Mari Wakamatsu, Katherine Brown, Rodney, Jamieson, Mrs. Brown (James Brown’s mother), James Brown.

To be continued…