Tuesday, December 27, 2005

country club by telok ayer street

It's quite zenic and meditative actually and the hours pass just in a sketch. Would recommend this passtime to anyone who has a knack for art and would like to try outdoor sketching. You do not need to be an artist. It is a matter of observation and concentration and translating the object into lines on the pad. When one is totally into it, there is only it and you are oblivious of the traffic or the people walking pass.

The sketch was done two Sundays ago on a cool morning after a healthy and delicious meal of make-as-you-order cheong fun at the stall in Amoy Street food center. Walking into Telok Ayer Street is walking into history itself. This was where the sea front is, and the early immigrants disembark from here. Naturally this would be a perfect site to set up a club for your kinsman.

Located at the juction of Telok Ayer Street and Cross Street this clan association was founded by the hakka's from the jiaying district in 1822. The current building was constructed in 1882, and its simple architectural style is relective of the of the dwellings found in the mountainous region where the immigrants came from - study, fort-like and practical.


Monday, December 26, 2005

a sojourn in tokyo - summer of 2005

It was a memorable summber Tokyo in from 18-21Aug. Before the year is out why not I blog it down and share this one fun trip of the year .

Though having been to Tokyo umpteen times, and even stayed there for two and a half years, this was the first private trip that was paid out of my own pocket. It was also a first going around the heart of Tokyo on a bicycle. Though commuters in Tokyo havev to put with the notoriouly packed trains, Tokoyites commonly make their way around the neighborhood by bicycle. To my surprise, the city is much more bicycle friendly than Singapore. There is no rude bumps acorss road crossing, and there are road signs dedicaated to cyclists.

For one to be able to cycle and maneuver oneself along the labyrinths of Tokyo, one needs to have a sense of orientation of the metropolis. The memory from the college days helped, and with the help of a tourist map, you know which direction you are headed to without much problem getting to the destination. Compared to walking, cycling would allow one to cover a much greater area and distance in a day, and yet not loosing the intimacy of knowing the place well.

Walking is a great way to discover a city. While in college, have walked thro much of Tokyo neighbourhoods. The longest walked was with a college friend one evening where we stared off from Shibuya train station, walking thro the Aoyama cemetery at mid-night, and arriving at the Tsukiji wholesale market early in the morning in time for the frenzy fish bargain.

On the bicycle one could cover cover many more areas within a short span of time, visiting old places and discover new neighborhoods all within a day. The holiday was was blessed with fine weather and a clear blue sky. A sign of early autumn was in the air was the cacophony of insect calling for their mates on there tree lined city streets and parks. Like the cute maneki neko (cat) at the sushi bar inviting the guests to come in, the call of the insect is beckoning to the sojourner to visit the megapolis again.

Interesting sights -

At the controversial shrine:
Over the past year, there were much news on this shrine in the news and it was the first stop of the trip. The early morning ride from Sinjuku, thro Yotsuya, winding past the Self- Defense Force Post at Ichigaya and to Kudanshita where the shrine was located was a breeze. The roads and pedestrian walkways were smooth, and relatively no morning jam along the route and the rush hour crowd had yet to come on.

The picture shows the central walkway leading to the main shrine, the two Chinese characters on the signboard reads ‘gejyoo’, meaning dismount. It is most anachronistic to leave this board in the shrine, when the Prime Minister & his courtier do not visit the shrine on horse back anymore, but in Lexus and Cefiro's.

A center exhibit of the war museum located in the compound of the shrine is this Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane. When the collective memory of her leaders and the ministers are etched in the glorified past of the land of Yasukuni, it is easy to forget that the divine wind (kamikaze) have dwelt havoc and disasters even to Shonan-to, the island known as the Light of the South.

To pray, one tosses a coin into the coin box in front of the altar, clap the hands twice to wake up the gods, bow and then say one’s prayers. You can use any coin, but a five-yen coin would be the most auspicious, 'go-en' meaning five yen has a similar sound as good luck. The young folks will probably hear no evil and see no evil when they pray at the shrine. We’ll to be a normal country again, they say you just remember those which were glorious

The faithful dog Hachiko:

This picture was taken in the north exit of the Shibuya train station. Previously it was just the bronze statue of the faithful dog Hachiko at the entrance, but now Hachiko has to share the glory with his other cousins on the wall. The story had it that in the 1920’s, Hachiko used to accompany his master to the station and wait for him every evening. Even after his master’s death, Hackiko continued this daily habit for 11 years. The coming year of the dog in 2006, will see more couples making their first date here. Where shall we meet? At the Hackiko entrance, so that we’ll be faithful to each other ever after.

As you wait for your love one, you are entertained with the latest dose of how threatening the neighbor of 1.3 billion could be, why Uncle Sam was in a bind now and the sacred mission to reclaim the northern islands be returned to the motherland. Then, many years ago, when the country was a step away from being the world number one, she could be kinder in her words and deeds, but not anymore. Especailly when the giant neighbor is up and rising and is perceived as the black ship of the 21st century.

ICC circle and not QC circle:

Went back to visit the college and saw this poster pasted on the the wall of the toilet above one of the urinals! It’s a notice by the International Communication Circle – a college group that promotes communication and interchange with foreign students. In short the notice is exhorting the local students to make use of the excellent opportunities they have to interact with their foreing breathen... and don't they know that nearly a tenth of the student population is from overseas! However, habit dies hard and what more when it has become part of the genetic make up of the people from this island nation. After all these years, sad to say it has gotten worse and the same message has now gone down the toilet bow.

A lesson to be learnt for the island people living in an area that is no bigger than a little red dot - never shall yee insulate yourselves in you mind, and feel that yee are of special breed. Go forth and mix, communicate and interchange -for men from the four oceans are brothers.

After cycling the whole day, this is the stuff that will replenish all the drained energy. This restaurant is located across the road from the college. It’s popular with students as the price of food here is economical by Tokyo standard, and delicious. The set has not changed much, and the price too, at about S$9. It’s minced meat deep fried in flour and bread crumbs and the locals called it ‘ korokke’, the corrupted version of croquette. It comes with a bowl of ‘tonjiru’ which is bean paste soup with pork, radish, onion and carrot. Time to cycle on, after the carbo loading.

Historical evidence:

Text books could be revised and withwashed to tell the kinder truth. Lest it be forgotten, and this is nothing more than a tale, here are the archeological evidence that the trip is a truth. From left to right, top to bottom -
a)Broccoli salad @ Y329 - receipt from Kuishimbo- Manzai, dated 2005.8.20, 11:26hours. This shop was came on in Channel News Asia– Japan Hour on 24Dec 2005, Saturday evening 7:30pm. The program featured the old shopping mall next to the Ookayama train station in the Tokyo neighborhood.
b) Swimming pool entrance ticket – Y550, dated 2005.8.20 , 13:07hours. The indoor pool was the venue for the 1960 Tokyo Olympics swimming events. Each summer it is open to the public and is located in the National Yoyogi Stadium Complex, next to Harajuku.
c) A fifty yen coin. The five-yen coin has similar shape and with a hole in the middle. Whoever carries a fifty yen coin, will enhance his/her luck by 10X. In Singapore we do hold similar belief in the power of the coin. Myth had it that the bagua,(八卦) coin will stabilizes the island foundation when it is being recklessly raked by underground trains. Sorry not bakgua.(肉干), and not meat to be eaten.
d) Y190 train bought at the Ookayama station heading towards Shibuya, dated 2005.8.20, 12:06 hours. Ookayama is where the college is located.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

by the river mouth

The old man by the river said that there used to be frequent gang fights along the river. However now you have drunkard fights. The shoplots where towkay Tok Seng and Kim Seng used to have their coporate HQs have since been serving up tandori chicken, sushi, tomyan soup, pasta, chilli crabs, tiramisu and latte. If Raffles had known that the five-foot way would be jammed with tables and and chairs one day, he would not have gazetted it in the Jackson town plan 180 odd years ago.

The old man said that the southern bank of the river resembles the belly of a fish, and that fengshui dictates that its fortune will never wane. How true. It is into its tenth prosperity cycle, and the many watering holes will further swell the fish belly to a greater girth.

Many a boat has sailed up and down its waters. Sampans of the orang laut (sea gipsies) used to dock here for the night when this area was still a magrove swamp. Next came lighter boats, twakows and they used to choked the sungai unloading bags of gambier, rice, rubber, spices and what have you from the emporium of the east. The boats are now loaded with tourists listening to the old man telling tales.

However sometime back, a most incongruous item ever sailed on the river. It was an Italian sampan gliding upstream nimbly paddled by an Italiano boatman standing upright at the stern. The folks cried foul and it was taken off the water at once. With the IR opening in a few years time, it might not be so absurd after all to be godolaing in the sungai and high time to bring them back.

The sketch was done from the historic landing site on the north bank. From that vantage point one could get a picturesque contrast of the art deco restaurants, cafe and pubs, against the modern skyline of the financial houses. The old man said that where the commercial banks are located now there used to be a little hill. The hill was flattened to fill up the marshland and the first row of building consisted of 18 shophouses.