Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Weekend Scene Japan Times

To support the Visit Japan Campaign conducted by the Japanese government, the Japan Times newspaper has started a column that features pictures of Japan taken by readers. So far, three of my entries have been selected for publication.
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Trekking the dormant volcano - Mount Fuji.
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Remembering Hiroshima - The Bomb Dome.
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Gion Festival - The Heron Dance Girls.

If interested, please send your entries to :

Photos should only be sent as electronic data to the above e-mail address. Resolution of at least 200 pixels/inch (and at least 10 cm in width) in JPEG format. You are allowed to edit your pictures using Photoshop.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Global Common 6 (Oceania & Southeast Asia)

The Global Common 6 zone offered shows and exhibits from the Oceania and Southeast Asia countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The theme of the Malaysia Pavilion is 'Truly Natural'. The pavilion was divided into some four corners (bad floor plan and space design). The organizer should have put up more space for the crowd and we were all seemed cramped inside the compact room. The first encounters inside the pavilion were some landscape of rainforest and images of coral reefs (not impressive and overall the lighting was a little too dark, or was it a cave they were trying to show ?!?).
There was a section that showcased the booming effort of the country in promoting biotechnology. The malay dance performance was lively and entertaining ... but I wasn't able to take any good pictures because of the front crowd.
I must give credit to the two staff members of the 'Malaysia Boleh' restaurant. The making of roti canai (flat bread dipped with curry) was highly entertaining - the flipping and tossing of the dough in the air requires great skill. Both of them were like in some sort of a competition - the higher one tossed and flipped, the crowd cheered on for more. However, Malaysia is supposed to be characterized as multiracial and multicultural country. But all I saw was malay people, malay dance, malay food (Am I being too critical ?) Why isn't there any wanton mee ? Oh I miss wanton mee (sigh). I know it is not possible to sell bak kut teh but at least yong tau foo has no pork.
Cambodia's Angkor Wat is one of the most treasured archaeological sites in the world and is considered one of the wonders of the oriental.
A replica of the famous Angkor Wat temple - high classical style of Khmer architecture.
The enigmatic carved stone face (that represents the serene faces of the Jayarvaman VII that lie inside the Bayon Temple). Since the 1990s Angkor Wat has seen a resumption of conservation efforts and a massive increase in tourism. Visiting Angkor Wat has always been a dream of mine. Hopefully I could see the mystical temple next April.
Cambodia has a long tradition of hand weaving silk (tremendous cultural significance). Traditional silk production was one of the aspects affected by the political and social instability occurring in Cambodia during the last quarter century.
Also enchanted with the stone carvings demonstration - techniques that were used to build and carve the Angkor Wat temples some 1,000 years ago.

A visit to the 2005 Aichi World Exposition was truly entertaining and highly informative. It was like a travel-around-the-world in 8 hours. Worth the experience but totally exhausted.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Global Common 5 (Africa)

Tomorrow, September 25th, 2005 is the last day of the Aichi World Exposition after running for a total of 185 days since March 25th. The Global Common 5 (Africa) zone is the most compact of all the common zones and it includes exhibits (cultures and traditions) from some 30 participating countries of Africa (including South Africa and Egypt).
Long queue outside the Egypt Pavilion. A good half an hour wait. We could have sneaked in from the back exit.
There are countless mysteries in the ancient civilization of Egypt (the mysteries of the Sphinx, the pyramid enigmas, the mummy's curses and many more).
This pavilion showcases exhibits from the ages of the ancient pharaohs and their glories to modern Egypt.
Interesting but not as impressive as those I saw in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre Museum.
The pavilion store sells antiques, handicrafts and traditional dresses selected from the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo. I bought two Egyptian-themed bookmarks from the souvenir shop and wanted to get some of the paintings (top picture) but too pricey.
The South Africa Pavilion showcases snapshots before the dinasour through human settlement, conquest, liberation and ultimate celebration of freedom (we missed this pavilion, sigh).
There wasn't much time left. We have to catch the 8.00 pm train back to Kyoto. We lingered around the African bazaar, with various merchandise from different participating countries. It was all business for the african communities !
Wood crafts from the Ghana zone (not sure which tribe this belongs to). The Ghanians come from six main ethnic groups - the Akan (Ashanti and Fanti), the Ewe, the Ga-Adangbe, the Mole-Dagbani, the Guan, and the Gurma.
Two Sudanese ladies busy marketing and selling their hand-made accessories.
Sudanese wedding highlights rich traditional culture with songs, sword play and dance. Well, we didn't see any in the expo. The above are just puppets - pretty isn't it ?
Two nice African ladies that allowed me to take their pictures (nice hat !). The Africa Pavilion has one of the liveliest, most energetic performance (dance and drum) in the expo. We were clapping, dancing and cheering for more.
Delicious (but small portion) african cuisine (forgot the name of the dish). Next post will be about the last zone - Global Common 6 (Oceania & Southeast Asia). Malaysia and Cambodia pavilions will be my main highlight.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Global Common 3 & 4 (Europe)

We totally missed the Global Common 3 and 4 (both eastern and western Europe) zones. There are more than 30 countries from the European region participating in the exposition.
I really wanted to see some of these pavilions - Turkey, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic and the Nordic countries.
Our legs were too tired. Menaka was taking a short break. I was wandering around taking pictures. I actually like the flower picture (topmost) very much.
The Kiccoro Gondola (600 yen/adult) that operates between the North Terminal (in Corporate Pavilion Zone B) and the South Terminal (in Global Common 4). As one gets tired, it is a convenient two-minute ride.
The design and creation of the Spain Pavilion is unique - formed by 10,000 hexagonal ceramic pieces. The totality of these pieces will be offered at a price of 2,000,000 yen.
Participating countries in the Global Common 3 & 4 zones include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the Caucasian and the Nordic countries.

I have been tagged to do a 'favorite seven' meme post by Primrose. A little reluctant, well, I am going to break the meme rules. I am going to rebel this time. I hope she doesn't mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Global Common 2 (America)

It is impossible to visit and to see everything in a day with regularly long queues of visitors outside the pavilions (and it's quite frustrating). There is a need to do more in order to improve on queue and crowd management. The United States of America and Canada pavilions proved a major attraction and the hottest among expo-visitors to the Global Common 2 Zone.
We decided to see the Andean Amazonian Pavilion - Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
On sale are art and craft objects such as various hand-woven goods (bottom picture), musical instruments, original photos and books related to the Andean Community.
As part of the cultural activities, visitors can also enjoy the rythmn of the mystic sound from the Andes (quite happening as the live music got us dancing). The Andean music is based on wind instruments like Kena, Rondador and other bamboo flutes, accompanied by guitar and other instruments.
More souvenirs and accessories of the Andean taste.
Postcards and paintings from Bolivia.
Inside the Mexico Pavilion, there is a showcase of traditional Mexican costumes. Huipil - a loose brocaded blouse worn by the Maya women in Mexico and Central America.
Amber - a fossil resin found in some abundance in the southern of Mexico, was created over 40 million years, having collected as tree sap and been washed by rain and streams into the ocean where it was compressed and left embedded in layers of rock when the seas subsided. In the process, leaves, grasses, mosquitoes, scorpions and occasionally small vertebrates were trapped in the resin. These insects add considerable value to the price of amber. Their position in the gem and the clarity of the resin is also key (e.g. if you have a centipede or a tarantula in the middle of clear resin it will be much more expensive than if you have a fly in the corner that can hardly be seen).
In Mexico, corn occupies half of the total land used for growing crop. Archaeologists believe that corn was eaten by ancient Mexicans for as long as since 5,000 B.C. Corn is ground into flour, mixed with water and made into tortillas. Not sure why these corn kernels are colored ?!?
Other participating countries in the Global Common 2 Zone include Argentina, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua) and four international organizations (United Nations, Red Cross and etc).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Global Common 1 (Bhutan and India)

I am back from summer vacation and this is my 100th posting. Yay !

Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan and this religion plays an important part in the nation's politics.
Inside the colorful Bhutan Pavilion, a 6-feet Buddha statue seated on a lotus throne made of clay.
The Buddha of the Present Age, Sakyamuni is always pictured sitting cross-legged on a lotus flower throne. His hair dark blue and there is a halo of enlightenment around his head. The Buddha is recognised by 32 marks on his body.
Prayer flags that are believed to purify the air and pacify the gods. These flags can be seen everywhere in Bhutan for good fortune, well-being, happiness and world peace.
A closer look at the wood carvings splashed with colorful patterns.
Dzong architecture is a distinctive type of fortress architecture found in the former and present Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas, most notably Bhutan. Dzongs are set in commanding positions on hilltops or at the confluence of rivers and serve as the religious, military, administrative and social centers of each district.
Bhutan remains one of the most secluded nations in the world, and foreigners are not permitted to travel to many of its areas to minimise the effects of tourism on the local culture. Bhutan ... I want to go !
To enable visitors understand the country better, the India Pavilion displays two well-known symbols - the Bodhi Tree (a respect for nature by the Indian people and the tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment) and the Dharmachakra (Wheel of Truth).
India is the historical seat of Buddhism as well as home to both the Theravada and Mahayana sects.
A corner for Indian clothings and other accessories that gives one the latest from the Indian fashion industry - scarfs, sarees, kurthas, sherwanis and many more.
The pavilion also showcases large collections (song and dance in films) from the Bollywood, the popular Mumbai-based film industry in India (several are my favorites like Aishwarya Rai, Neha Dhupia and a few more).
The spiritual art of India - a presentation through a traditional dance (not sure the name of the dance and there weren't much dance movements).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Global Common 1 (Asia)

Apart from the corporate pavilions from the host nation (Japan), there are six global common zones that feature exhibitions from other participating countries.
The Saudi Arabia Pavilion allows visitors a deeper understanding about Islam and the history creation of the Saudi Kingdom.
Representatives from the Saudi Arabia were singing hymns. Highly entertaining.
The kiswah is a black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy that covers the ka'bah (the giant black box) in Mecca. Mecca is the holiest of all cities to Muslims and the ka'bah is the center of attention of the center of attention.
Yemen is said to be the most underdeveloped country in the Arab world, and conversely it is a country where the traditional culture and way of life of Arabs are still well preserved. The Old City of Sana'a is called the world's most ancient skyscraper city. The Yemen Pavilion focuses on the re-creation of the Sana'a streets (topmost picture, right).
One exhibition highlight of the Bangladesh Pavilion is the rickshaw (bicycle-taxis) that Dhaka is famed for.
Agriculture lies at the center of economic activities in Bangladesh, and its exports are largely comprised of cash crops like jute and jute items.
Each of us (Cho, Menaka and myself) bought a flute for just 100 yen (each) from the Bangladesh Pavilion. There is a restaurant that serves ethnic curry, barbeque, kebab, samosa and nan. We had our lunch there.
The Sri Lanka Pavilion showed us the historical glory of unique art and architecture through Theravada Buddhist practice. Walls are painted with events from Buddha's life and Jataka Stories relating previous births of Buddha.
Upon entering the exhibition hall, visitors see 1000 square meters of handicrafted batik set on the ceiling. Very impressive and indeed one of the best pavilions (in my opinion).
The China Pavilion has a unique outdoor design - the 12 animals in chinese calendar. The next world exposition 'Better City, Better Life' will be held in Shanghai in 2010, the first world expo to be held in China.
In the sense of Chinese civilisation, it is difficult not to mention about this chinese invention - the abacus (suan pan, in mandarin, literally means calculating plate).
The sandalwood furniture of the Qing Dynasty design.
The red and blue colors in the design of the Korea Pavilion and the bluish sky background is pretty indeed.
The Uzbekistan Pavilion presents traditional handicraft wood and brick carvings.
There are many other pavilions in the Global Common 1 (Asia) zone. Other participating countries include Iran, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), which we did not see. Also Bhutan Pavilion and India Pavilion (which I will include in my next posting after short summer vacation to Kyushu Island). More postings next week !