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Monday, December 28, 2015

Nine Days in Japan - 13 November 2015

In 1978, 42 students from seven countries (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and USA) met in Tokyo, Japan for six weeks of immersion in Japanese culture. It was an eye-opening experience for all and life changing for some. After exchanging letters, they lost touch with one another until the advent of the Internet and most notably Google and Facebook. A reunion was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2008, organised by Lee Kwong Yan, one of the Malaysian students from 1978.

The group met again in Osaka and the Kansai region in 2010 and in New York in 2012.

The fourth reunion was held on the island of Shikoku, Japan, where we had a chance to experience the rural side of Japan. This initiative was organised by Chen Soon Kuan from Singapore, Rich Yamasaki from the USA and Motoharu Matsukura (Moto) from Japan. This time, the following members of the alumni were present: Denny Gerberding (Indonesia), Chen Soon Kuan (Singapore), Ho Chow Peng (Singapore), Pip Panasbodi (Thailand), Uma Trankasombat (Thailand), Rich Yamasaki (USA), Lee Kwong Yan (Malaysia) and me, of course.

The participants who were not members of the JAL 1978 were: Axel Gerberding, Lee Kim Wah, Chris Panasbodi, Roger Yamasaki, Tania Lee, cousins Gladys Yean and Shona Yean, Alfred Ang and his wife, Anne, and long time friends Tze Khoong Loh and Geok Suan.

Kuroshio Fish Market, Wakayama

Our first day in Japan started at Wakayama, a seaside resort and town on the southern shore of Honshu. Shona, Gladys and I decided to join Soon Kuan, Kim Wah and a few of Soon Kuan's friends at Wakayama before the reunion at Shikoku. It turned out to be a rather good place for food.

The first place we visited in Wakayama was the Kuroshio Fish Market, located within Wakayama Marina City. There we watched a a giant tuna being cut and filleted by a skillful young chef - the whole spectacle reminded me of Iron Chef! A stroll through the marina revealed that it was a place popular with courting young adults as well as the aged, who are driven there in special vans to take in the fresh sea air. There was also a fruit market nearby where I bought half a dozen, very delicious and cheap persimmons.

Dinner at Wakayama

The evening was spent in exploring Kintetsu Department Store, which had a very impressive display of Japanese food. Unfortunately, the place closed at 8pm sharp and we (Gladys, Shona and I) had to look for an alternative place to have dinner. We chanced upon a quirky restaurant which served 'small chops' and hesitantly descended into the basement where the main area of the restaurant was. We were delighted to find that the dining room was partitioned into little rooms and most of the clients were women.

Below was a sample of what we had:

The food was better than expected and we returned to the hotel, quite satisfied with our little soiree!

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