Monday, February 09, 2009


Happy Chap Goh Mei! It's the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and even though I'm celebrating my 3rd CNY in Japan, I think this year is the best so far.

We had a gathering at my favourite Malaysian restaurant at Ginza, the very same place my parents found while I was bringing them around Tokyo. Who would've thought we'd accidentally find a Malaysian restaurant while randomly walking around and even spending JPY1260 for a plate of fragrant char kuey teow served on banana leaf.

The Malaysian owners of this restaurant had an open house and our MalaysiansInJapan group gate-crashed were invited to be part of the festivities. By this time I had known more Malaysians and felt more excited getting to know fellow countrymen who are studying and working in Tokyo.

The waitress in her uniform. Looks very much like the MAS air stewardess outfit, doesn't it?

Loads and loads of good yummy sedap oishii Malaysian food. Can't remember all, but I had crispy fried popiah, satay in peanut sauce, sweet and sour fish, spicy chicken wings, and bubur chachar!

The size of the restaurant is probably the same as my room, but there were more than 30 people at least in there at any one time. It was a bit hard to move around, but I heard it was even more packed last year.

With the nice "Datin" Ang who owns the restaurant and hosted the CNY open house luncheon. Hospitality like these always make staying in foreign land more bearable!

(This is based on the accumulative experience of having tried food there both times)
Food : 9/10
Service : 8/10
Ambience : 7/10

As I reflected on my experience so far, I find that being in Japan has actually made me appreciate my roots more. Since Japan and China are closely related in many ways, I have no choice but to be more Chinese in a way. There is nothing like being thrown out of your comfort zone and being forced to learn and discover yourself in a foreign land.

For a banana* like me, two of the best things that have happened as a result of that are :

1) Using the chopstick
I've always been a fork-and-spoon person, grew up with them, be it when eating rice, noodles or even western food. Seriously, with a fork and a spoon, you can eat almost anything with them. They may not be the best equipment to eat steak with, but it still works.

However, after coming to Japan, I had no choice but to eat everything with chopsticks. Rice, noodles and even western food. I can't say I'm using chopsticks the right way, and those of you who do will know that there is a right and wrong way to hold them. Maybe because I've been using them the wrong way since I was young and never bothered to correct myself!

2) Reading kanji
The Japanese kanji characters are derived from ancient Chinese characters. My parents' generation grew up learning the traditional characters, but my generation were taught the simplified form. Even China is using the simplified version even though, if I'm not mistaken, Taiwan is still sticking to the older one.

Still, there are many characters which are very similar in both the traditional and simplified. And in a way, that has helped me appreciate my Chinese background more.

It was to my surprise that for the first time I noticed the Chinese kanji on signboards when I went back home for Christmas. Being a multiracial country, most of the signs and notices are in at least 3 languages; Malay, English and Chinese and/or Indian.

I've never quite realised that I only read the first two and somehow the Chinese characters seem invisible to me all these while. However, after learning lots of kanji here, it feels like my eyes have been peeled open and I find myself startled as if those characters had somehow magically appeared when they have been there all along!

*banana - colloquial term referring to Malaysian Chinese who are not well-versed in the Chinese language (and in a broader term, culture). Banana meaning yellow-skinned, but white on the inside. Usually applies to descendants of migrant Chinese who are English-educated.

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