Japan-ASEAN Student Conference 2009: Day 1-3

I’m gonna try to put the whole trip together in one post. Hehe. Anyway, last November out of the blue (as most interesting phone calls are) the International Office of UBD called me up for a meeting. So I went and the meeting basically said, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WRITE A 1500 WORD ESSAY ABOUT ENVIRONMENT IN THE POLITICAL-SECURITY CONTEXT OF ASEAN IN 3 DAYS AND YOU GET TO GO TO JAPAN IN AUTUMN!

Obviously at first I was like….

Well, minus the cigarette.

Did research on the topic and realise I knew nothing about it but finished on time anyway. Haha. I decided to give it an angle at least I know something about which is youth. Essay was entitled Environmental Issues and Policies in Green ASEAN: Towards Enhancing the Roles and Involvement of Youths. Heheh.

Abstract below:

The environment, in particular on global scale, is a major international political, security and social issue. The ASEAN region have been acknowledging these issues and problems since the very beginning of ASEAN’s conception. These pressing environmental issues indeed cross national boundaries. It, most often encompasses economic development,international development gap and the sharing of natural resources. It is a problem that require almost unprecedented joint efforts from all stakeholders of present and future in order to understand and to mitigate. However, ASEAN plans and declarations are done at the high up intergovernmental level and have little effects at the grassroots level, specifically the youth. What are the roles of youth in these policies and how can youth as future stakeholders of ASEAN be more involved in them? What further complicates matters for youths?

Sound smart right?! Hahaha. It’s proof that my brains did not seep out from my pores during my travels after all. Haha!

HIRE ME. Ahem.

Anyway, so with the essay, I was in and officially going to Japan! I was pretty psyched obviously especially because I never imagine I’d ever get the chance to go back there. Last year, while feeling elated walking down on the streets of Shinjuku, I remember saying to a friend of mine, “This is probably the only time I’d ever go to Japan”. Happy!

DAY 1

So on the day we’re about to leave we’re told to bring our luggage to UBD‘s Administration Office’s for a medical interview.

Medical interview basically is an H1N1 interview. Apparently H1N1 threat is really scary in Japan and they’re really paranoid of us getting it. This room has no air-conditioning and was extremely stuffy and hot! No surprise that about half of us failed the temperature test. Very strict too! Cannot even be half a fraction higher than 37.5.

We then (all 12 of us) boarded a big ass 40 seater pink bus to the airport. Hahaha. That was really funny I thought. Even for SSEAYP we didn’t go on a bus to go to the airport. Haha.

Our first ever group photo! Maybe it was just me cause everyone didn’t seem to mind, but I thought it was really hard to gather everyone for a group photo. During SSEAYP, when our leader goes “PHOTO SESSION LINE” then everyone automatically assumes position and no talking and just start smiling at a general direction hahaha. This is because at any given event, each contingent usually only have a few measly seconds for a group photo with a guest of honour and usually there are more than 30 photographers taking the same photo so we need to be ready instantly if we wanna look good! Pre-departure training was quite strict about this I guess because these photos go into official annual reports. So when it was all relaxed with this group, I felt like I was in a foreign land with strange customs.

On our RBA flight on the way to Singapore. I am happy to announce that this photo was taken by the CEO of Royal Brunei Airlines. Hehe. He sat next to us in Economy Class, aisle seat. Not even window seat! Anyway, I was wearing flats that day and was struggling to put my bag in the overhead compartment, suddenly he offered to help me out. Oh how nice I thought thenI asked him to take a photo of us and he was like, “Oh of course!”. Then in the middle of the flight, I was reading Muhibbah and saw a photo of him laughing with two flight attendants at the Brunei Airport. Saw the caption read CEO of RBA and I was like… HUH? I told my friends and they didn’t believe me until finally I asked, “Hi, is this you?” and he was like.. “Yes but shush”.

HAHAHA. How random is that! 😀 So yes, RBA’s flight to Singapore is so comfortable that even their CEO goes economy! 😛

No more hot towel! Replaces with these wet tissues. Kept this to give as a souvenir hahahaha. I’m sorry I’m cheap but I was really kapih then (still am) okay!

RBA is actually a not bad airline. 🙂 I love the cushions on the seats. And I always think the cabin crew’s pretty friendly. 😀 Always get free chocolates! And I remember one time me and Nonnie went to Thailand, and we asked for the child playset and they gave both of us one each! Hehehe. I just wish RBA has more destinations. They used to fly to really awesome places like Osaka and Bali. But oh well,times are hard. 🙂 But yes I enjoy my flights on RBA, please keep it up!

In Changi, my favorite place to transit! Haha. Doing a transfer from RBA to ANA to Narita Airport, Japan. Just making sure our luggages all make it as well. 😀

ANA rice crackers. Can’t remember what these taste like. I love that this is a late flight. The flight was late at 11 or so and that means I can sleep the whole way and by the time I wake up I’ll be in Japan. 🙂

DAY 2

Was woken up by the flight attendant for a non-halal breakfast haha. Ate a bit of fruit and juice and realised outside was already sunrise. It was a Japanese sunrise too according to the map. 🙂

We’ve arrived! Japanese coastline visible from the distance. I was wondering why I didn’t remember this from my first visit when I realised…. last time I sat on the aisle and I slept so comfortably on the A380 until we landed! LOL.

Welcome to Narita! Woohoo! Last time I was here I had to wear a freaking suit! And now here I am to enjoy Japan in normal clothes!

Got on our bus. Was briefed by Asano-san here. After that I slept some more. Hahaha!!! I can’t help it, I always sleep in the car/bus/train/plane. That’s where you really catch up on sleep.

Our luggages all arranged when we arrived at the hotel. Stayed at the Asakusa View Hotel. Very nice and very safe neighbourhood for us kids to roam around looking for ramen at night!

Our room! Only 3 minutes in the room and my bed in the middle is already messy. I am possibly descended from rats. Oh by the way, on my bed was a very warm winter jacket to keep. 🙂 I only wore it when the outer layer is removed. Haha. It’s got JENESYS written at the back. I miss my room mates: Tanti from Indonesia & Putri from Malaysia!

Later we had an orientation and was given the conference kit including the masks. 😀

They they introduced to us the icebreaking session. We were given money and a destination. Each group was supposed to find their way to a given location with only the money in the envelope. Since we’re required to use the MRT, the 3 Japanese participants from each group automatically became the leaders for the expedition! However as we’ve come to realise, one girl didn’t really know much cause she’s from Hiroshima, and one guy was not so well versed either cause he lived in Singapore his whole life and the one girl left lived in Tokyo but does not go out much. HAHAHA.

Can you tell where we’re all from? 😀 One guy missing from Myanmar but otherwise this is our first ever group photo!

But since we’re an awesome group, we were the first to arrive anyway! Hahaha. Took 45 minutes to go there. It’s a very long way away for little old me who lives in Brunei where everything is only 15 minutes away, but not for everyone else. 😀

Our destination TEPIA, is this really awesome place that exhibits new technologies that are the basis for some of our daily electronic items.

TEPIA was established with a mission to enlighten people as to the latest technologies of Japan’s machinery and information industries and to give them a chance to experience technologies firsthand in order to contribute to a better society of people living in harmony with technology.

Taken from here.

The smile estimation technology, which is now incorporated in most digital cameras including mine!

Simulated driving! For people who wish to learn to drive. 🙂 Kinda like a very familiar game in the game arcades no?

There’s also some awesome inventions like the electric car. I wish I have one cause I don’t like to buy fuel. Haha. But my electric bills will no doubt skyrocket!

And this facility has many robots! 😀 This one for instance can move around and talk to people, greeting them, etc.

From TEPIA we took another train back to Asakusa and arrived early for dinner so we took pictures here first. I apologise but I cannot remember what this place is called but it was reaaaaaaalllyyyyy cold that night and sooooooo windyyyyy. I wore my cashmere scarf like that cause my ears were freezing and to keep my neck and chest warm. My fingers were really cold too so I bought gloves after that!

Dinner time! We had this in a fancy nearby restaurant. 😀 No name since it’s in Japanese. I had vegetarian tempura. I really wasn’t trying to be healthy hahaha but was quite paranoid of non-halal food after my various porky scares last time I was in Japan. Good thing I had a conversation and they were asking me why I was a vegetarian and I said I was actually a Muslim so I eat halal food but since many people don’t understand halal I usually just say vegetarian. JENESYS as it turns out, were more awesome in handling food restrictions as they actually know what halal was!!! I ate meat after that. 🙂

Back on the train after dinner, we headed off to Shibuya! In this photo with Risako from Japan and Jade from Singapore.

😀 Many shops were unfortunately closed. Raining! But it was great to be back there! Shibuya, I’ve missed you.

Train routes enough to make anyone feel faint in every colour of the rainbow.

That night we all packed for a trip on the Shinkansen trow. Blue luggage will be left in Tokyo and Black overnight bag will be brought to Zao, and Sendai City in the Miyagi prefecture. This choice of luggage will be my biggest regret over the next few days. Hahaha. I wish I just brought my blue bag!

DAY 3


With George from Japan and my room mate Putri from Malaysia.

All checked out from the hotel and ready to leave by bus to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for the official opening ceremony. We were required to wear formal clothes. Went around Brunei looking for a cheap blazer before I left and found one in iTop for only $25. I love iTop! 😀

On the bus with my friend from last year’s event in UBD, very very smart Kaan from Thailand in the same theme of Environment but different subgroup. 😀

We look like we’re taking photos right but we’re actually listening to two keynote speeches by smart people. Yeap. I don’t really remember what it was about. But something along the lines of like, the conception of ASEAN and the friendship that goes way back, back into timmmme.

Did I forget to mention, for the whole time I was there, our temperatures are checked every morning before breakfast and before lunch. It gets very annoying towards the end. 🙂 But when I got back home, I missed it a bit. Hehe this was on the bus on the way to Roponggi for lunch.

Walking in Shinjuku, towards our restaurant. Indonesian restaurant by the name of Jembatan Merah. Staff were all Indonesian! 😀 Yummy food.

Aoki-san in front for some after-lunch entertainment. 🙂 Such a nice man!

The National Diet Building behind the trees. The National Diet Building is not where the Japanese measure their calories but is actually equivalent to the White House in USA and the Parliament Building in Brunei. 🙂 If you notice, on the left, there is a flag of both Japan and the USA. This is because President Obama was also in Tokyo at the Diet while we were at the MOFA. Wish he’d stop by but he didn’t. Hehe. Roadblocks everywhere and in a way was quite lucky for us cause there was no traffic.

Another photo of the National Diet Building with two Japanese SWAT vans in front. Security as you can imagine, was very very tight indeed!

In TOKYO STATION again!!! What a trip down memory lane. Last year boarded on of the Shinkansen to go to Fukushima Prefecture for homestay. This time I’m off to Sendai in the Miyagi Prefecture!

Everyone sleeps on the Shinkansen. It’s the train of sleepyness. I had a nice time speaking with my neighbour so I didn’t sleep but I imagine I would’ve too if I had no one to talk to. Hee.

As we arrived in Sendai we were rushed into another bus bound for Zao, pronounced ZAA-WO. We’re headed towards a place called the Zao La Foret Resort & Spa.

Our room, and me still sleeping on the middle bed haha.

The JENESYS jacket that everyone peeled off the outer layer of. Haha.

One of the most awesome things I ate during my travels. This here is sweetfish or ayu. I was particularly excited to eat it because it’s one of the recurring ingredients in one of my favorite shows, The Iron Chef. I’ve always wondered what it tasted like. It’s like ikan masin. No complaints here! Ikan masin is possibly my favorite food! Fukui-san!!!!

Zao is actually very very famous for the onsen or hot spring. It’s basically an awesome communal bubbling hot bath, but a little weird cause YOU HAVE TO GO IN NAKED so obviously no pictures from there. Hahaha. You really sleep well afterwards! But to compensate the absence of photos in the onsen, we TOOK MANY MANY PHOTOS outside!

Including one with Mr Sayakane Sisouvong, the current Ambassador-at-Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laos who we all quite enjoy speaking with! Apparently he wasn’t supposed to join us, but he had some free time and he looks like the type to go.. why not? Above is his photo with the very funny Cambodian contingent! 😀

At this point I felt like I’ve been in Japan for 2 weeks already hahaha. Only 3 days into the trip and we haven’t even started the conference yet! LOL But no complaints as I was really having fun with my new friends! Stay tuned for the next post because this place looks absolutely beautiful in the morning sun.

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