Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Something to Talk About Part 1

Life is like a box of chocolate ... hhmm ... perhaps life is like a harbor and friends are more like boats - they come and they go. We all know why friends are important but life is kinda fickle sometimes. And self interest is so powerful and assertive that may drive friends away. Making friends can be quite a difficult task especially when one does not have a pleasant personality.

Do you make friends for the wrong reasons ? Sometimes things can go very wrong and we ended up mixing with the wrong type of friends. And too often we don't realize. There is no reason not to be grateful. No punks, no cheats, no drug addicts. And I have all the beautiful friends I needed. Life is indeed fickle at times and I always wanted more.
Do you consider yourself outgoing or shy ? I have a really good friend (top picture) who is never too shy to be himself. Does he remind you of ANYONE ?

If you are shy and quiet, do you feel awfully painful being with the popular and the noisy (blabbermouth) ?!? Yea, sometimes we do, right ? And how often do you tease your friends for fun ? Well, what good are friends if you can't tease them ! So formal, so polite ... and that can be really boring (well, don't start teasing me in my blog. OK !!). : P
Some of my friends are camera-shy. Well, they knew well that their pictures will most likely end up in my blog (therefore hesitated). She is one of my best friends in Japan. How many best friends do you have ? Life is like a harbor and friends are more like boats. Friends come and friends go. But friendship does not need togetherness. They are the little footprints that live in the heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Daimonji Gozan Okuribi

The most famous bonfire festival during the Obon season is the Daimonji Gozan Okuribi. It takes place on five mountains around Kyoto on the night of August 16th. At about 8.00 pm, giant characters and symbols are set aflame and these bonfires are lit to guide the souls of deceased ancestors back to their other world.
The symbols and characters are dai (the larger dai as shown above and a smaller one, hidari dai monji), myo 妙 and ho 法 (togeher they mean 'the marvelous law of Buddha’), torii-gata (Shinto shrine gate) and funagata (shaped like a ship).
During the day, huge torches are arranged and prepared for the night of fire ceremony.
All pictures were taken from my school building. During the night, banks of the Kamo River will be crowded with festival-goers to enjoy the burnings on these mountains.
On Mt Nyoigatake, the character dai (literally means large) measures about 230 feet (horizontal stroke), 510 feet and 408 feet in each strokes.
The symbols are lit in sequence around the city, dai monji (20:00) being the first, myo and ho (20:10), hidari dai monji and funagata (20:15) and lastly torii-gata (20:20).
During the festival, city lights and flashy neons are sort of turned off to enhance the spectacular of the bonfires.
Couldn't view the other three symbols from the school building (perhaps next year).
The fires are blazed for about 30 minutes and as the fire burns, priests recite sutras and services are held to console the spirits.

Mount Nyoigatake (also known as Daimonji-yama) can be climbed during the rest of the year, which offers some really splendid sunset and night view.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Buddha In The Forest

In Buddhism, Buddha literally means the Awakened One or the Enlightened One. Generally, buddhist do not consider Gautama Buddha, commonly known as Shakyamuni, to have been their first and last Buddha. According to the religion, Gautama Buddha is just a member of a spiritual lineage of Supreme Buddhas. The next Buddha-to-be is named Maitreya (also known as the Laughing Buddha). According to the scriptures, at present, Maitreya (as a bodhisattva) is preaching in the Tusita Heaven.

More information, click here : Gautama Buddha
A Buddha statue in the forest. Well, I am not an artist. I just like to paint when I have mood to paint. My particular weakness - I always end up painting layer upon layer and the colors turned out too striking, ending up the picture being a little too cartoon !
I like to draw and paint the nature. I suck and a little rigid in drawing human and animal objects. I have to seriously learn how to draw a face (for some good reasons). Well, the third picture of a completed drawing - just for my own keeping (yea, I know, it is weird to have lotuses in the forest !!).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sarasvati in Japan

In Hinduism, Sarasvati is the goddess of all arts.
Goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful fair woman dressed in white and is generally shown to have four arms.
Besides her role in Hinduism, she was also absorbed into the buddhist set of gods (Biancaitian in Chinese) and still worshipped in Japan under the name Benzaiten. In Japan, she became a protector-deity and also one of the seven gods of good fortune.
Benzaiten (or sometimes she is called Benten) is associated with dragons and snakes, especially white snakes.
These white snakes are often her messengers.
Two buckets. The bigger one is filled with water and the other empty. I was curious. I asked. There is actually a hole in the bottom of the smaller bucket (duh).
A huge sacred tree that stands in front of the Demachi Myoondo Shrine (出町妙音堂), the Benten's shrine which i visited this evening.
Most of the Benten's shrines are either on islands or located near rivers. Japan's three most important Benten shrines are located in Eno-shima Island, Itsuku-shima Island and Chikubu-shima Island.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Notes and Coins

Too important to ignore. Money is important. Money is essential. And money changes everything - good or bad. Shown here are specimen of japanese banknotes and coins (scanned from brochures obtained from Bank of Japan Otaru Museum).
New banknotes (Date of Issue : November, 2004)
10000 yen (Portrait : Yukichi Fukuzawa)
5000 yen (Portrait : Ichiyo Higuchi)
1000 yen (Portrait : Hideyo Noguchi)
10000 yen (Portrait : Yukichi Fukuzawa)
5000 yen (Portrait : Inazo Nitobe)
2000 yen (Design : Shurei-mon Gate)
1000 yen (Portrait : Soseki Natsume)
500 yen (Design : Paulownia)
100 yen (Design : Cherry Blossom)
50 yen (Design : Chrysanthemum)
10 yen (Design : Hoo-do Temple)
5 yen (Design : Rice)
1 yen (Young Tree)

Check site : Security Features of the New Bank of Japan Notes

Can one quit his / her job and travel and make money ?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Coin Laundry

How often have you been letting your mum wash your clothes ? And some of us are lazy to hand wash. Most college students are often too lazy to wash their own clothes. Some may just even wear their underwear inside out. When I was a college student, I was too lazy to hand wash my clothes and I sent them to the nearest laundry. How many of us actually like home washing, folding and ironing of clothes ?
Back home in Malaysia, my mum is the one who does the washing most of the time. How many husbands are actually willing to do so ? Laundry is just not a man's strength. The only thing men are good at laundering is money - all the cash that somehow ends up in the wash, along with pens, business cards and cell phones.
I don't remember seeing any self-service laundry in Malaysia. Is there ? In Japan, coin laundry washers / driers can be quite small compared to american laundrette. Bigger ones provide soap, meanwhile new washers contain soap. Such laundry facility will come in handy for travelers.
They have got collection of comic books (manga) here too. Many weekly manga are the thickness of a telephone book.
Depending on wash load, as for this shop, one pays either 300 yen (max 4.5 kg) or 400 yen (max 8.0 kg). As for the drier, 100 yen per 10 minutes drying time.


Wife : Did you remember to separate the clothes before washing them ?
Husband : Yes, of course I did. I put the whites at the bottom and the colors on top.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hyakumanben Chionji

The Hyakumanben Chionji Temple is just across the street from the Kyoto University's main campus back gate
This spacious and relaxed temple has no scenic gardens but there is no admission charges either.
The main hall is large and stately (not as big as the ones in Higashi Honganji Temple though). A pleasant place for some quiet interlude and reflection.
Two strings of huge beads. These prayer beads or mala beads as they are called represent a meditative tool. Mala beads carry a deep significance in the buddhism culture. Typically there are 108 beads divided by three large beads. The 109th bead on a mala is called the sumeru or guru bead. Counting beads while recitation of mantras should always begin with a bead next to the sumeru.
One can tell the difference between a shrine and a temple. Shrines have the torii gates as you enter the sacred ground, whereas temples usually just have a regular gate or entrance. I found this torii gate particularly beautiful and is located inside the Chionji temple ground.
The Buddha statue with blue sky and clouds - allows one to become serene and tranquil. I see this every morning.
The Chionji temple hosts a small flea market on the 15th of every month; 8:00 - 16:00 (handicrafts, ethnic clothing, food and pottery). One can put up a stall for just 3000 yen.
After almost eight months of protest, the flimsy looking Hyakumanben Ishigaki Stone Wall Cafe is finally being torn down. The students demonstration has succeeded.
Students proposed alternative solutions and finally the university has agreed on the new plan and to maintain the Ishigaki stone wall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Down But Not Out

Failure can result in a sad mood. For many reasons, I have been struggling with my research project the past few months - mistakes due to inexperience and ineffective research management. Although blogging has been occupying my late nights and some of my school time, I deny accusations that blogging has taken much of my effective study time.
I just needed to vent my frustration. How could I be so careless ?!? How could I have made such a careless mistake ?!? Does one make a mistake for a reason ? Silly mistakes and a-month of repeat work to do. Today I am feeling down.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Blogging has become a favorite pastime for many. For some, it has become an obsession. As one spend more time sitting in front of their computers, they neglect family, friends and jobs. They blog at home and also at work.
I have been blogging for more than 8 months now. Sometimes I put more energy into blogging than into my research. It is sort of easy to get sucked into it ! I am beginning to feel a little too addicted to blogging. Bad signs. One of the first things I do when online is open my blog. I talk about my blog all the time.
So far, I enjoy blogging. Will I become more engaged with my laptop, more engaged with my blog than I am with my research ?!?

So blogging ... pastime or obsession ?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Popular Pachinko

Pachinko is an immensely popular pastime for japanese and every city here seems studded with pachinko parlours. Pachinko is a combination of slot machine and pinball game.
This trip to the pachinko parlor was indeed a nervous one. Not wanting to disturb the serious gamblers (pachi-puro), if any, sitting in silence in front of their chosen machines and concentrating on their game (plus an impression that pachinko parlors are owned and operated by yakuzas), I quickly snapped a few pictures and set off for home.
Players purchase a large number of small steel balls which are inserted, in bulk, into the machine. One will pay about 4 yen per ball and can buy just 100 yen's worth of steel balls. No serious gambler would start by spending less than a few thousand yen.
The balls then drop and usually simply fall through to the bottom, but occasionally fall into certain gates which make the machine pay out more balls. Players can control the speed at which the balls are fed into the device. Most current machines include a slot-machine (these are called pachi-slo, topmost picture), and the big winnings are ultimately paid not from the balls falling into gates, but from the slot machine matches (either numbers or pictures) that follow.
The pachinko parlors also often feature a small number of slot machines. One may use cash (1,000 yen) to purchase coins for the slot machines.
Winnings may be exchanged for more play, or a parlour's goods and services - though not directly for money because of strict Japanese laws against gambling. But players seem able to exchange certain prizes for cash at small centres located nearby. But some parlours flaunt the law, allowing winner to exchange balls for cash (2.5 yen per ball).

How big is the pachinko business in Japan ? If you come to Japan and want to play pachinko, you won't have to look very hard to find one.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The 'No Wallet' Incident

Not my first visit to the Daimonji-yama. The hill offers a hiking trail to the peak where one can enjoy the view of the city.
At sunset. We were hiking up fast in order to catch the sunset. I could feel myself panting for air and dripping with lots of sweat.
A couple seen here enjoying the city view and watching the sun sets.
The view of the city - not the best night views I have seen but still a great view of the city lights below from atop Daimonji-yama.
More pictures of the Kyoto city. I guess this is nothing compared to the Hakodate (Hokkaido) night view which is considered as one of the best in the world.


We hiked down the dark trail. It was a bit spooky to me. Daimonji-yama is one for the five mountains in Kyoto where fires are lit during the obon season to guide the deceased ancestors back to the another world. And Obon is just around the corner. August is ghost time in Japan !


After hiking,
Patrick : Let's have dinner.
Anonymous : Where ? I don't have my wallet with me !
Patrick : I have. Let's eat near the north campus - Hiragana-kan.


In the restaurant,
Waitress : Your order, please.
Patrick : Grill ginger chicken.
Anonymous : Butter grilled chicken.
Patrick : Blah blah blah ..... wah .... my pictures quite nice .... blah.
Anonymous : Cheh, you edit your pictures .... blah blah.

Munch munch .... blah blah blah ....
munch munch .....blah blah blah .... blah.
Patrick : Mine is quite nice.
Anonymous : Salty lah my food. Soup so hot.

Patrick : Burp !

Patrick : Oh god, I don't have my wallet in my bag.
Anonymous : Don't play play lah.
Patrick : Really !
Anonymous : #&%@!!
Patrick : How ?!?
Anonymous : OK. You wait here, I go and get my wallet.
Patrick : No. You wait here, I go and get my wallet.