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Saturday, 23 August 2008

Let's Start from Here

My good friend Marlene the D sent me a song called 'Let's Start from Here' and told me it is Joanna Wang's song. Who's Joanna Wang, I thought. However, Marlene and I normally share the same taste of music, so I started listening.

The moment the music intro started, I knew this is gonna be good music. Not until Joanna Wang started singing, it was just, WOW! Thanks, Marlene, for introducing such wonderful music to me, and thanks in advance for the CD that I'm gonna receive in Malaysia. :)

Joanna Wang is a Taiwanese educated in California. Everybody says that she's the Norah Jones of Taiwan, but I personally think that is an understatement. Her voice has a very distinctive identity, albeit sounds older than her age. She sounds like a jazz female vocalist with years of experience. If you don't believe me, just take a listen for yourself.

I heard that her debut album was also released in Japan, so I'm gonna hunt for the Japanese pressing as well!


Friday, 22 August 2008

An Affair with Tokyo Tower

Watching the skyline of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower was spectacular enough, but I just couldn't see Tokyo Tower itself in the view. However, there are other observatories around Tokyo, like the one at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, but Tokyo Tower is not visible from here.

The best observatory to see Tokyo Tower is the one at Mori Tower at Roppongi, as the building is close enough to Tokyo Tower and it has also the advantage of being at the centre of Tokyo itself.




It is always good to visit an observatory an hour or two before the sun goes down. The reason being that the evening sun gives a very warm side lighting to the subject.




And when the sun has just set, the sky turns really blue, providing a very good background for the subject.




When the sun has totally set, the artificial lighting comes into life to paint your photo. This photo was taken from the open deck of Mori Tower, the tallest open deck in Tokyo which is open to the public. As there is no glass panel to block the view, I didn't have to worry about the problem of reflection.




As the sky gets darker, the artificial lighting turns brighter and more vivid.




You should snap as many photos as possible, provided you have a steady tripod.




If you don't have a tripod, your photo will turn out to be like this:




If you have a tripod but there is an earthquake, your photo will turn out to be like this:




So, don't leave your tripod at home if you intend to shot some night scenes.




Don't forget to take a series of shots to be stitched together. A panoramic view of a night scene is always more breathtaking than a normal view. You may click on the photo below to see a bigger image.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Ultimate State of Ramen

I frequented Tsukiya Ramen because it is just a short walk from the university. Furthermore, it has the best ramen that I have ever tasted so far.

I was normally ushered to the seats at the back of the shop when I went there alone, as there is a long bench there that accommodates 6 single persons. When I went there with some friends, I could only have the chance to take the seat facing the kitchen.

The big plague above the dispensing counter says: "one cup into the soul," by my direct translation. It probably means the taste of the soup here. I totally agree!




Have I mentioned that the noodles are freshly made everyday? If not, this is the noodle-making room.




The shop owner probably has a heart for retro Japanese thingy. Therefore, you can see old posters and antique pots on the walls and around some corners of the shop.




As I am picking up more and more Japanese words, I can understand the menu better. In Japanese ramen, there are basically four soup bases, namely: tonkotsu (pork-bone), sakana dashi (fish), miso and shoyu (soy sauce).

I love the one with W Su-pu (soup). Are you wondering what that is? As W is pronounced as daburu which is also a phonetic for 'double' in Japanese, the W here means a mix of tonkotsu and sakana dashi.




At the back of the colourful menu shows the history and origin of the shop and the explanation on tonkotsu and sakana dashi. There is also an introduction of the extra yummy toro nikku (belly meat) that has the melt-in-your-mouth texture!




One day, two Thai friends and I went to this shop again but we had run out of idea of what to order. So, we decided to try the most expensive item found on the menu called Tenko Mori, and this bowl of ramen with overflowing toro nikku appeared in front of me!




If one bowl is not enough to feast your eyes, how about three? All three of us wanted to test our limit of ramen intake that day!




What can I say? One bowl of this Tenko Mori could make me feel like exploding! However, I had to finish the whole bowl for this memorial shot.




How much is it? Each bowl is ¥1,380! I would say that this bowl of ramen is enough to feed two persons with normal appetite.




If you are still not satisfied with one bowl of Tenko Mori, there are always some other side orders, like this bowl of Chya-syu Me-shi (rice with chopped chasu/bbq pork).


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wordless Wednesday – Hot Samba Girls

























Location: Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Date taken: August 1st, 2008
Camera equipment: Nikon D300 + Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D + Nikon Speedlight SB-800




Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Overflow of Sashimi

When I was going back to the university one day, I passed by a restaurant near the Kita-urawa train station and saw a poster advertising on some special offer. I saw two fishes and beer bottles on the poster and I started to read in detail. With my limited understanding of Japanese by just recognising the Kanji (Chinese) characters, I understood that is was an offer of sashimi tabehodai (eat-all-you-can) with nomihodai (drink-all-you-can), but limited to two days only.




Being a sashimi lover, I couldn't forget about it and I told my Thai friend Tap. He was so happy to hear the news as it is a rare chance to find eat-all-you-can sashimi in Japan! So there we went.




Although the sashimi was limited to just two types of fish, they are no low quality fishes. We got maguro (black tuna) and hamachi (I don't know the name in English)!




To top it off, every fish slice was huge and thick! Each slice was about 5~10mm! No other thin-sliced sashimi is comparable to a thick and juicy one!




We were so happy eating and drinking and kept on ordering. I am a non-alcohol person but I miss-ordered a Rai-chi Sa-wa (lychee sour) which had no indication of alcohol at all, but it did in its content. Another mistake was the Rok-ku Cha Hai (high tea). It was some green tea and liquor mix which tasted like grass!




We ended up eating four and a half plates of the maguro and hamachi sashimi and we felt like two happy fishes thereafter. Then we asked for the bill.




Our faces turned green when we saw the figure on the bill. It was ¥10,100! The waitress who gave us the bill was also stunt by our surprised look and she took back the bill for a recheck. It was actually a mistake. They had mistakenly put all the other items that the next table had ordered on our bill. What a relief for the two of us! At the end, we paid only ¥3,000 for the both of us.

This has got to be my most satisfying meal in Japan. I don't think I can have sashimi in such quality and quantity back in Malaysia by paying only ¥1,500.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Feasting with Eels

Yamazakiya is one of the oldest shops that sells eels in Urawa since the Edo Period. It probably has a history of 200 years in eel cuisine, so it sells nothing but eels nowadays.




Though the interior looks nothing like 200 years ago, but it was renovated to allow the guests to dine in comfort. As the dining area is a traditional tatami floor, all the guests need to remove their shoes and store them in the shoe lockers at the foyer.






One thumb up for the Japanese restaurants for the free drinks of either cold water or hot green tea upon settling down on the dining table. Are you wondering what that chunk of wood with number "28" is? It is the shoe locker key! Cool, isn't it?




Since this shop is famous for nothing but eels, my order was definitely the prominent unadon (eels with rice). Another thumb up for Japanese food is the presentation that is also a feast to the eyes.




When the lid of the rice box was opened, it was another feast to both my eyes and nose.




The eels here are grilled to perfect golden brown with a shiny glazed surface. It was supposed to be eaten with the ground spices provided on the table, but I prefer the natural flavour of the fish in the original grilling sauce.




This has got to be the best unadon that I have tasted as I could sense the fragrance of the grilling sauce and the eel taste in every grain of rice inside my mouth. I have tried unadon at other places but they just lose hands-down to Yamazakiya in terms of freshness and flavour.




Will I go back for more? I definitely will! Although this meal made me ¥1,890 poorer, it was worth every single Yen.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

小情歌

當我第一次在收音機聽到這一首歌的時候,就覺得它很特別。它略帶一點英式搖滾,但又非常抒情。

它的旋律固然動聽,但是歌詞就馬馬虎虎啦!所以在聽過以後,也沒什么沖動去買光碟。就連組合的名字也不知道!

最近才知道這組合原來叫“蘇打綠”。而在 Youtube 看了 MTV 之後,才知道“蘇打綠”既是 "Sodagreen"。這名字非常與眾不同,所以就再看了幾遍它的 MTV。哪知道這首歌越聽越好聽,原來簡單的歌詞貼切地反映了歌名“小情歌”,所以希望在這里把這首歌推薦給大家。


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