Mount Fuji from Mount Kachi Kachi

Mount Fuji from Mount Kachi Kachi

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014: BIGBANG JAPAN DOME TOUR X in OSAKA DOME D4

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Japan Life : Halal Food and Prayer

I believe some of you might wonder how do I find halal food and perform my daily prayer in Japan right? Well,there are few tricks and know-how that you've got to learn not just in Japan, but in any other non-Muslim countries as well. It's kind of hard at first, but slowly you'll get the gist.

In Japan particularly, the food labels are written in Japanese kanji, so it's difficult to know what are the ingredients. Before I came to Japan, I thought it would be easy to find halal food here since I love seafood so much. But I didn't know that Japanese lurrrrve their "SAKE" or traditional alcoholic drink so much they would add it into everything. (sushi, desserts, sweets, etc). And when the menu says vegetable spaghetti or vegetable curry, you would easily find pieces of PORK in the dish as well. Even after living in Japan for 2 years this still traumatize me, like what the phish??!! I ordered vegetarian menu!! Haha, no they didn't do this on purpose. It's just that majority of the people in Japan don't really understand about vegetarian food let alone halal food.

Groceries
You could always find halal stuff in the international grocery shop in Kyoto, but for shopping in the normal supermarket or 7-E, it is really advisable to memorize simple kanji characters such as below :
豚肉 (buta niku) : pork
牛肉 (gyu niku) : beef
鳥肉 (tori niku) : chicken
酒 (sake) : Japanese alcohol
味醂 (mirin) : Japanese sweet cooking wine (contain alcohol)
醤油 (syou yu) : soy sauce (most Japanese soy sauce contain alcohol)
乳化剤 (nyukazai) : food emulsifier  (normally derives from animal unless stated as soy-based)
ショトニング : shortening (normally derives from animal)
ゼラチン : gelatin (normally derives from animal)
ラード (la-do) : lard

There are many more, but basically I will stay away from products with these kanji written on the package. I think the most difficult part is the 'nyukazai' thing, because they use it in almost everything especially in their bread and cookies. On the other hand, if you do not want to go through all those hassles, then you can just shop from below halal online markets. They will deliver everything to your door steps in just 2 days, and you can pay them by COD. The downside is, you need to shop more than JPY7000 to get free shipping cost.
www.baticrom.com
http://halal-food.jp/

Eating Out
If you are eating outside (other than halal restaurant), it would be impossible to confirm about these details. So what I normally do is I would just tell the restaurant please don't add any meat, animal oil and alcohol AT ALL inside the dish (肉、動物油やアルコールぬき). Other than this, I will leave it to God (tawakkal), because Allah knows best. I have done what I could.

Fast food chain (vege and seafood menu)
Some of the menu at the  fast food chain restaurant can also be consume by Muslim. You can find the shop almost everywhere in Kyoto.
http://www.akindo-sushiro.co.jp/en/  (kaiten sushi, super cheap! I personally won't take the soy sauce because the ingredient on the bottle shows it contained 'alcochol')
http://first-kitchen.co.jp/ (shrimp burger)
http://www.lotteria.jp/index.php (shrimp burger)
http://www.skylark.co.jp/gusto/menu/index.html (corn pizza)
http://www.saizeriya.co.jp/menu/grandmenu.html
(vege & seafood menu. But you have to ask carefully. They often added pieces of meat/ham in the dish)
http://viedefrance.co.jp/index.shtml (bread and pastries)
http://www.manneken.co.jp/ (delicious waffle!! but some contain alcohol so please ask)

Also, this website was shared by my Japanese colleague. List of Muslim Friendly Shop around Kyoto (NOT Halal certified) http://kyotomuslimfriend.jp/en/ I have yet to try it though.

But if you do have a choice, I suggest that you go to the halal restaurants where you can just eat heartily and peacefully. Below are very useful website with list of halal restaurant around Kyoto:
http://kyoto.travel/muslim/en/hotel.html
http://www.mikansjapan.com/food/halal-kyoto.html

Coffee
For those who know me, I am a coffee JUNKIE like big time! I could drink coffee for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But to know that most canned coffee in Japan contained 'nyukazai' is just mind boggling! What am I suppose to drink then? Well actually the 'nyukazai' comes from the dairy product,added into the coffee. So if it is black coffee or no milk coffee it's not a problem to drink. But I love my milk coffee so much I'll go crazy without them. Luckily there are some coffee brands which omit the use of 'nyukazai' or substitute it with fresh cow milk instead. There aren't many, but I've managed to survive my daily life thanks to them. Some of the choices are as below:
Coffee shops: Tullys, Doutor, Starbucks.
Canned coffee: DYDO, Blendy, Nescaffe, Wonda (caffe au lait), Kirin (Cafe latte), 7-E Hikitate (Esspresso and cafe latte).

Halal Apps
It's pretty difficult to remember all these things so what we normally do is to download halal apps on our smart phones. There are also some volunteer group on Facebook surveying halal products in Japan to help those who can't read kanji. I normally refer to these two:
http://halalminds.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Halal-Japan/503821533010825

Prayer Apps
I believe nowadays most people would download prayer apps on their smart phones. I did that too when I first came to Japan (I never owned a smart phone in Malaysia!) and it is very helpful especially when I'm on the go. Some of the common apps is Athan and Muslim Pro. You can download it from below:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.athan
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bitsmedia.android.muslimpro

Where to pray?
Whenever I'm on the go (travelling or business trip), I would try to do jamak or qasar prayer as much as possible if I have the chance. However, when I'm out for shopping or hang out with friends on the weekend, normally I would use below tips.

1. Fitting room
Just find any shopping mall, grab a pair of shirt and go straight to the fitting room. Nobody will disturb you there unless you are taking too much time. Malls with Uniqlo or GU shop is much preferred. :D

2. Garden or park
When we go out for picnic of sight seeing, this is what we normally do. We would find a spot under the trees or near the resting area and perform our prayer here. It's a bit open, so there will be alot of curious Japanese lookers, but if you are with friends it's less awkward.

3. Stairs
Whenever I couldn't find a fitting room at the mall, I would go to the stairs area, spread my praying mat and pray. Big space, less people (or no people at all).

4. Breast feeding room
Haha. I know!! It's not appropriate, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Actually there is one Masjid here in Kyoto, managed by the Kyoto Muslim Association. It is located in Koujinguchi and you can access it by taking bus no 7, 14 and 205 from Kyoto Station. I normally would go there like once a month. They have a masjid, halal shop and a halal restaurant (Kyoto Rose Cafe) just a few steps away from the masjid. Please drop by when you visit Kyoto later okay! Here is the website : http://kyotomuslim.net/access/index.html

Wudu' (Ablution)
This could be a problem too, because it can be a bit uncomfortable to take wudu' in public toilet in Japan. The sink will get wet with splashes of water here and there, so I need to dab a whole bunch of tissues for it. Washing my feet while everyone is watching is also, err..uncomfortable.

Nowadays, I will make sure to take my wudu' BEFORE I go out. So when I need to renew it later, if the situation doesn't permit me to take wudu' as per normal, I will not take off my shoes but just splash some water on it instead. This is called 'khuf', one of the 'rukhsah' for us which I read in this book 'Mengenai Solat' written by Ustaz Rohidzir Rais. This blog's explanation is also very helpful:
http://fiqh-sunnah.blogspot.jp/2007/11/055-bagaimanakah-berwudhu-dengan.html

You don't have to splash gallons of water all over your body like we normally practice in Malaysia when taking wudu'. Just by spreading the water slowly & evenly onto the skin surface is enough. When I'm at work, I even fill up water into spray bottle to take my wudu'. Really useful and worry free! Then again, some of us could care less about Japanese people opinions, but being the only Muslim in the company with 2000 over employees, I am not that carefree. (Mayb Allah have mercy on me.)

That's it. Finished this post, finally! I hope my humbling experience could be a help to you too. Now I can go and enjoy my Doutor coffee. Mata kondo ne!



P/S: All of these info are based on my PERSONAL checking and information I got from senpai (senior) who lives in Japan for many years. If you are not satisfied, please contact the shops directly or do your own reconfirmation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Japan Life : Introduction

Salam..
Oh my god, I have only about 7 months to go before I say sayonara to Japan, for good!
I can’t believe that I didn’t even blog about my new life here. All the small and exciting things about Japan that I wanted to share with whomever that might come across this humble blog! Yes, talk about work stress and PROCRASTINATION! But it is better late than never. Yes, let’s do it. Where shall I begin? Hmm.
Maybe I should recap a little bit how I end up in Japan in the first place. I actually moved to Japan for a staff transfer program at our headquarter office. Every year a few employees will be selected from our overseas affiliate companies for such programme. Depending on the requirement, the training period differs from 6 months up to 2 years. My training duration is of course, 2 years. And plus another 6 months attending a full time language course at the Kyoto Japanese Language School.

On Oct 2012, I flew alone from Malaysia, reached Kansai International Airport in Osaka in early morning, and managed to find my way to our HQ office in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto. Actually there were 5 other trainees from Thailand in my batch. We are all from different departments but we are required to take the compulsory language course before start working. The reason is, Japanese speaks minimal English. MINIMAL. We need to master  the basic level of Japanese language in order to survive.

So for the first 6 months, every day we had to travel about 45minutes from Nagaokakyo by JR train and subway to our school in Imadegawa. The school conducts various programmes such as summer classes, university entry prep class, business class and intensive course such as ours. Mainly, the students come from China and Europe. As I recalled the memories from my Language School day, it made me cringed! It was a fun school, but I couldn’t catch up classes properly. It was so stressful that I lost weight and even fell ill a few times. As someone who uses English and Malay Language my whole life, I was clueless and scored the worst mark among all. The teachers had to go really slow with me, the trainees from Thai were not much of a help either as they converse mostly in their mother tongue. But, even though I was a slow learner, I managed to shine (or maybe sparkle..) at what I do best, TALKING! Despite the difficulties, I was selected to join the school Japanese speech contest and I was the best presenter during our final presentation test. Once I've finished my language course, my 2 years life as a 社会人 (members of the society) in Japan begins.
Graduation Day!
Before coming to Japan, I was already informed by my company that I will be the first Muslim staff to work in the headquarter office. So I had to be prepared mentally and physically in order to quickly adapt to my new environment. Being a person who wears hijab, it is a huge challenge for me (even until now) to meet people's weired stares and suspicious look where ever I go. On a good day, I'll just smile back or look away pretending I didn't notice them. But as time goes by, especially on a bad bad day, I will stare back at them my head held high.

Still, Japanese are such a good people. Polite, high discipline and full of courtesy. But they are not very open yet to other cultures. They do not know much about Islam, and some don't even know where is Malaysia...(cry!!). Since the beginning of this journey, I have set a personal mission while I'm here, I'm gonna try to mix with as many Japanese people and promote more awareness about my religion and my country, even with the smallest gesture. I always believe that when you work overseas, no matter how small it (your work) is, you are carrying your country’s flag. 
At Tokyo Dome. My routine whenever I goes to Bigbang's concert.

When people ask me how do you feel working in Japan? Well I can say, I do feel proud but it can be very depressing as well especially because of the huge language barrier. What I've learned in school was only basic. Business Japanese is like a whole different level of the language. It took me almost 1 year to at least feel confident enough to speak in front of people in the language. You got to have thick skin and high sense of survival to adapt, it's not just sweet and candy talk.

So yeah, language is a big issue if you want to work in Japan it's no joke. But it is such a beautiful country that all your sufferings and dreads could disappear simply by enjoying it's nature and excitement!

To be continued...

Mount Fuji in Winter.
Cherry Blossom in Spring.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Emotional breakdown.

It's the 3rd day of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah, I'm in good health and good body condition to embrace this spiritual journey. May Allah grant me such blessing until the last day of Ramadan. For your info, it's summer now in Japan. And Kyoto can be pretty hot and dry on certain days.

On the other hand, I am still emotionally challenged. And today, I broke down in front of everyone. It was too much to contain I guess. After my final hiccup, I just laugh it off as a joke. Only Allah knows how embarrassed I was! I hope such incident will never happened again. No matter how difficult life or work is, I should always be compose and refrain from reacting by emotion.

Still, what's done is done. Chin up! It's the month of full blessing. Prayer of those who fast, prayer of the wayfarer, will definitely be answered and granted by Allah the Almighty, Insyaallah. 頑張るぞ。

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hotel Forza, Fukuoka

 Last time I went for a business trip to Fukuoka. My colleague and I stayed at a small business hotel called Hotel Forza Fukuoka, which is just opposite the Hakata Train Station. I loved it so much! Small, classy and comfy. Everything was in orange color and vibrant! It has everything that I needed including a board-style iron (which I couldn't really figure out how to use it properly but my shirt's a good to go). And most of all, it's company-paid. LoL. They even use high quality bathroom product with essential oil which made me very happy and satisfied after my shower. Oh!I forgot to snap pictures of the bathroom though..










highlight : IPAD!!







Sunday, April 27, 2014

Learning to say NO.

I want to scream to the world. I want to scream to my bosses. I want to scream to my family. I want to scream to my friends. But among all, I want to scream to myself!!

Life is tough lately. I had ( and still have) so many on my plate, more than I could afford and I'm sinking each and every day. I am moody and gloomy at times, tired and frustrated most of the time.

It's hard enough for me to face the daily challenge of being alone in a foreign country with foreign language and religion. I had to suck it up no matter what. I'm trying to stay positive (until the end of my contract here) but why does people act so damn oblivious? Asking me to do this and that when I've already given out so many hint of HESITATIONS. I'm not here on a vacation, I here with a mission to accomplished, for God sake. If you can't help to make other people's life better, help by NOT making it worst.

Yes, that is the source of my problems. People can't understand hint. They want clear facts. So, I am learning to tell them clear facts. I am learning to say NO.
Read between the smile : NO.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cherry Blossoms..

I did the unthinkable! Finally I made my first solo backpacking trip in Japan to see the magnificent Mount Fuji in Shizuoka! With just 2 days prior of planning, the journey took me 5 hours from Kyoto to Shizuoka by train, 4 times transit, and voila! やった!It was an early birthday gift (to my self) for 2014 , and I'm glad I did it! It now opens the door to many more new adventure!! (To be continue....)

Friday, February 28, 2014

West Kyoto : Arashiyama

Arashiyama is one of my favourite place in Kyoto! I just LOVE how the trees and river transforms itself every season in Arashiyama. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, you won't get the same view! Personally, I think the best time to come here is of course in autumn/fall which is around Oct to Nov. The various colors of autumn foliage is just too magnificent! But a short boating trip across the Oi river in the middle of winter was also a great experience!

Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. (wiki)

From Kyoto  Station, you can take the JR Sagano Line train to Saga Arashiyama at platform 33.

 
Don't worry, they have gasoline heater inside the boat.
 
Aren't they pretty?

Wild ducks enjoying their winter bath

Bamboo Trail

It's a long walk, so you can also try the trishaw

Sunday, February 23, 2014

North Kyoto : Amanohashidate

Since becoming a  会社員(company employee), I was able to enjoy my new life in Japan more! (Gone off the days of lack of sleep & stressing over 日本語quizzes and tests!!) I’m eager to travel to the different places in Japan every time there's a public holiday here. On weekends, I would try to discover Kyoto city as much as possible but there are so many interesting places to visit in Kyoto itself! Here are some of the places that I’ve visited so far (and more to go!!) Hopefully it can ignite some ideas for those of you who are planning to go to Japan!

Seikiro Ryokan & Gallery, Amanohashidate, North Kyoto.
Amanohashidate (天橋立) is one of Japan"s 3 scenic view  (Matsushima, Amanohashidate, Hiroshima). The sandbar is located in Miyazu Bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture. It forms part of the Tango-Amanohashidate-Ōeyama Quasi-National Park. From Kyoto Station, you can take the JR Limited Express train to Amanohashidate at platform 31.

  
My first Japanese Ryokan experience! And it ain't cheap..




Our room have so many sliding door opening it's just amazing!


We got the best room, both garden and Amanohashidate sea view!
Guest will be serve personally by the staff at the dining hall.
Our Dinner! We boiled everything raw and eat happily.
We even participated in the Obon Festival Dance with the local folks.
Time to say good bye..But see you again Amanohashidate!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 : BIGBANG CONCERT TOUR IN JAPAN (again and again..)

Happy New Year!! 2014 is here. Let's work hard, be a happier and better person. Spread love! :)

One and half year of living in Japan, so I have attended 7 9 BIGBANG show in total.

1) BIGBANG Alive Tour - Kyocera Dome Osaka 241112
2) BIGBANG Alive Tour - Kyocera Dome Osaka (Special Final) 130113
3) GDragon OOAK Concert in Japan Dome Special - Kyocera Dome Osaka 280413
4) GDragon OOAK Concert in Japan Dome Special - Nagoya Dome 010613
5) BIGBANG 6 Dome Japan Tour  - Tokyo Dome 211213
6) BIGBANG 6 Dome Japan Tour  - Kyocera Dome Osaka Day 1 (Final Show) 110114
7) BIGBANG 6 Dome Japan Tour  - Kyocera Dome Osaka Day 2 (Final Show) 120114
8) YG Family World Tour - Kyocera Dome Osaka Day 1  120414
9) YG Family World Tour - Kyocera Dome Osaka Day 2  130414

Seeing this list, to say that I am a mediocre BIGBANG fan, would be a lie, RIGHT? But to say that I am hardcore VIP is too much of a statement coz I made new friends at the concert from all around the world who are wayyyyyyyyy crazier than me! But, from 1st concert until the last concert, I noticed that my Japanese comprehension skill is getting better as I could understand most of the conversation!! YeaY!!

So many things to write, so many photos to upload, so many great VIP friends made, so many new experiences, so much love and respect for my boys. It's my obsession and yes, I'm loving this journey.

The Clan