Sunday, November 30, 2008

We're back....

My brother-in-law told me that the link of our blog listed as last entry in his blog's link and he want us to update our blog as it won't always show as the last entry. When I am accessing to the blog, I realize that we didn't post any blog for exactly a year.

Well, within this year, there are many things happened and I believe some are worth to be posted. But, again. Time is our big challege due to long hour work and of course laziness. But, I told myself, at least I need to drop some words as the record.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market sometimes called as Central Wholesale Market is very interesting place in Tokyo. This place consist of two sections, the ‘inner market’ is the licensed wholesale market, where the seafood auctions take place. The ‘outer market’ consists of stalls selling of many kinds of fresh fish, seafood, processed marine product, etc.

The most interesting part in the Market is Tuna Auction in the ‘inner market’. The auctions start around 5:00am, you need to wake up earlier to witness this specially events (renowned as the highlight of visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market). You can see a huge amount of Tuna fishes (with tail cut down) line up on a terraced platform within the Wholesaling Area. Auctioneer uses a red food coloring to indicate group of Tuna fishes they belong by some kanji characters or symbol. Buyers carry a ‘hook’ type of tool to slide down small piece of the Tuna meat with the tool. They can either smell it or rub the meat by using their thumb and index finger to examine the quality of fish.

Once the inspection session is passed, auctioneer rings the hand bell and rapidly calls out the number and opening bid for each group of tuna. Buyers use a hand gestures to inform the auctioneer how much they want to bid for a particular group of tuna called out by auctioneer. This is the interesting part as the way auctioneer rapidly call out the bidding sound very much like chanting with some fascinating rhythm, you can also see those buyers busily show their hand gesture to response each calling by the auctioneer. The amazing thing is final price for the bid can be established almost immediately within the calling and hand gesture between auctioneer and buyer.

After the bidding, each Tuna will be loaded into the carry cart. The narrow street in the market will be packed with carts carrying with frozen Tuna fish to be loaded into trucks and shipped to the next destinations. Some carts will be moved to the stall located inside of the market.

You can also have chance to witness how Tuna fish is processed in the ‘outer market’. When the frozen Tuna fish delivered to fish stall, it will be cut by using a machinery saw into 4 quadrants. Fishmonger will remove the bone by using a long knife and cut the fish into smaller rectangle pieces.

Each piece of tuna fish will be then displayed in the stall with different price base on its size and quality.

Other than Tuna fish, there are different varieties of interesting fish or marine product sell in the ‘outer market’.

When you have chance to visit Tokyo, you can arrange sometimes to visit Tsukiji Fish Market. This is totally different from the rest of seafood or wet market in other part of Asia.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Natasha's Experience in Japan

I had a splendid experience when I travelled to Japan in July’07. The reason why I said it’s splendid is merely because it’s my dream to travel to Japan. I’ve never been to Japan but kinda like the feeling that this country impressed me.

Well, I’d say that I’ve unofficially visited Japan for 2 times. Why? I have 2-time Japan visa in my passport. Why? In 2005, I almost got to Japan successfully but the plan was called off last minute due to Duncan’s business trip was postponed. (He supposed to do the same thing, which is bringing his wife along during his business trip to Japan).

In 2006, same thing happened again. Whenever I thought I’d be in Japan next week, and things got pulled back last minute. This year, when Duncan told me that he has an assignment to go over for a meeting, to be frank, I don’t show any reaction. I don’t remember when the visa was ready and how I made myself not to wait for the trip. Until we got the air ticket booked, annual leave approved, JR ticket bought, I started to believe that I’d be in Japan next few days, at least for this time, successfully.

I finally stepped in to KLIA then to Narita Airport. It’s not end yet. My passport was on-hold by a custom officer and was told to have suspicious towards my passport. Time ticking and ticking, i was called after around 30 minutes. The officer raised questions like the purpose of our visit, what we do for our living, what kind of relationship and etc. After the “Q&A” session, they shot a photo of myself to prove I am the person in my passport and released us.

Throughout my trip in Japan, I wrote down some blogs to share my feeling and view against this country of rising sun.

To be continued .......

Natasha's experience in Japan - Part 2 (Food)

One of the reasons why I always wanted to travel to Japan, is partly because of the food. I love raw stuff, sushi and everything. Every day I travelled, food has become part of my objectives on the day. I was looking forward to 3 meals in a day. I planned for my breakfast. I had limited time to catch the early train, so, Duncan always wanted me to get the breakfast ready the night before. Not far from our hotel, there’s a convenient shop, 7-eleven. Most of my breakfast would be from this convenient shop.

Either Bento set or kind-of-rice-ball sushi, I had them finished with satisfaction. That was a day I wanted to taste a different breakfast, so I bought a Japanese instant noodle. It tastes totally different from those in our country. I don’t know how to describe, it just tastes very good. That was one of my breakfasts.

As for lunch, I’d prefer to purchase those from machine. The first time I saw this machine outside a restaurant at Asakusa. I had ‘hard time’ to purchase anything from this machine as I can’t read Japanese !! Well, when Duncan was with me, he did most of the food ordering, while I don’t do anything but ready to eat. Buying food from this machine is much cheaper than you dine in those normal order-to-eat restaurants.

The problem had finally arisen when I was all alone. I chose to have my lunch at one of the train stations. Restaurants are just few steps away when you exit from the station. That is something I like too whereby you can easily find a place to eat in a station. I chose to have my lunch that day at a so-called convenient restaurant with food ordering machine. To those working Japanese, lunch is rather rushed for them and you won’t be surprised to see restaurants with no chairs at all and everybody is standing at the bar to have their lunch.

I had my coins ready to prepare for the machine. Too bad, I didn’t think there’s any kanji looks like Chinese character and I can’t read the menu at all. I quickly approached a middle-age man standing next to me. Again, how am I supposed to tell him what I want to eat? I saw some displays of ramen or lunch set at the window. I tried to point which one I’d like to have and get him to show me on the food ordering machine. Apparently, he doesn’t understand though and I don’t seem to know what he tried to tell me. *Chicken and duck speaking.

No choice, I tried my luck to those buttons that seem answering my questions. A ticket drawn out from the machine and the lunch set was ready when you passed over the ticket to the waiter. I was in the queue of all working Japanese man with suits on and carried a briefcase. When I got my food ready, it was a relief that I had something which is edible, ramen with a roll of fried tempura. Thank god :)

Usually I’d have dinner with Duncan when we met up at somewhere. Most of the time, our dinner was the most expensive one. We had the raw stuff and Yakitori (BBQ set). Dinner was never a problem to me.

I noticed something when we had dinner at one of the restaurants one day. Most of the customers in this restaurant are male Japanese. They were smoking and laughing loud while drinking their Japanese wine, I guess. It was 9 somethings when we had dinner that night. Japanese men don’t go home after work. They will usually hang around with colleagues or friends in the wine bar, restaurants or Pachinko (one kind of Japanese game for gambling) shop. Duncan explained to me, if a Japanese husband goes home early, it means the husband does not work hard enough to earn money for the family. Now I realized why these people would rather enjoy themselves in the restaurants.

To be continued .........

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Madonna of the Rocks

Please refer to below 2 portraits, can you identify any difference between these 2 portraits?

These 2 portraits are masterpiece painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Leonardo received a request from one of the church in Milan to paint the centerpiece of an altar. The nuns of the church gave Leonardo their desired theme for the painting. They requested to have the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, angel Uriel and baby John the Baptist sheltering in a cave. Leonardo Da Vinci delivered his work as requested but rejected the nuns as they found the portrait offensive. The nuns requested Leonardo to repaint the portrait.

On the left hand side of the portrait is the first version painted that rejected, the portrait on the right hand side is the accepted portrait. The first version of Madonna of the Rocks is currently exhibited in the Louvre, Paris while the second version is exhibited in London’s National Gallery.

What’s wrong with the first version of the portrait? Why the nuns reacted exaggeratedly on the portrait?

I am not a scholar of Christianity or Art. I am just a layman whom interested with these 2 portraits. This is my shallow 2 cents worth.

The controversial part of the first version of the portrait is Baby Jesus kneed and holds out his hands in a gesture of prayer toward Baby John. Everybody presume the baby near to Virgin Mary is Jesus. If referring to second version, the John's traditional cruciform stick has been added to the baby whom Virgin Mary sitting with. The cruciform stick further clarified the identity between Baby Jesus and Baby John, it showed that the baby whose Virgin Mary ushered with is Baby John instead of Baby Jesus. If the baby was John that Virgin Mary ushered with, there is no problem for the praying gesture that the baby holds while this is matched with the common Jesus-blessing-John scenario. However, some scholars refuse to believe and claimed that the cruciform stick was added by other artist later, it is rather a very odd sitting arrangement that Baby John ushered by Virgin Mary instead of Jesus that commonly be seen in Christianity portrait.

Another mystery is Angel Uriel pointed her finger towards baby whom sat with Virgin Mary in the first version. Why the pointing gesture had been removed in the second version? What does the gesture mean in the first version? Most people believe the only reason why the gesture had been deliberately removed from the second version is to let everybody believe the baby that sat with Virgin Mary is John the Baptist.

In Dan Brown’s popular novel “The Da Vinci Code”, it is claimed that the first version of the portrait was rejected due to the painting contained hidden sign which contradicted Christian belief.

Extracted Dan Brown’s statement from “The Da Vinci Code” related to Madonna in the Rocks as below:

“….. More troubling still, Mary as holding one hand high above the head of infant John and making a decidedly threatening gesture – her fingers looking like eagle’s talons, gripping an invisible head. Finally, the most obvious and frightening image. Just below Mary’s curled fingers, Uriel was making a cutting gesture with his hand – as if slicing the neck of the invisible head gripped by Mary’s claw-like hand. ”

I cannot relate the scandalous comment that Virgin Mary and Angel Uriel threatening gesture that claimed by Dan Brown above. If referring to these 2 versions of portraits, although you can clearly see the index and middle fingers of Virgin Mary are slightly clawed compare with the second version. However, I cannot really see any threatening gesture of gripping an invisible head no matter how I can imagine. Furthermore, it is very apparent that Angel Uriel was making the pointing gesture with his hand instead of cutting gesture. I think this the statement is only gimmick Dan Brown used to support the plot in his novel.

No matter how we can analyze on these 2 portraits, no one can really give us the right answer of those questions that we have since many decades. The only person could answe was Leonardo Da Vinci.