Monday, November 17, 2008

Japan: Tokyo is a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics

Who could imagine that I'd get to visit three of the four candidate cities of the 2016 Summer Olympics this year? I was in Madrid, Spain in April and May. In June, I got to visit Chicago, USA. Now I'm in Tokyo, Japan. If Tokyo wins, it will be the second time the city will host the Summer Olympics.

The selling point of Tokyo is that it will be "the most compact and efficient Olympic Games ever." And I wouldn't be surprised, if given the chance, that they'll pull it off! So the countdown to October 2009 begins when the IOC will announce the winning bid!

Part 1: Konichiwa from Tokyo, Japan!
Part 2: Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan
Part 4: Sensō-ji Temple in the Asakusa District (Taitō, Tokyo)

Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan

Talk about waking up early to see a fish market! The Tsukuji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. So don't be surprised if this fish market has become a big tourist attraction. We had wanted to see the world-famous Tsukiji fish auctions but we learned they stopped allowing tourists at the auctions early this year due to health concerns and to avoid any disruptions in operations and other trading activities.

Besides, we could not leave the youth hostel we were staying at before 6 a.m. since they had a curfew. Doors were locked from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. After the conference, we vacated our five star hotel (sigh!) and transferred to the Sumidagawa Youth Hostel on the opposite side of town. A bed here was ¥3600 a night. But members of Hostelling International get a ¥600 discount.

Anyway, we were out of the hostel a little past 6 a.m. If you're going around Tokyo for a day, it would be convenient to get the one day subway ticket which is ¥710. If you want to include the JR Line in your day pass, you'll have to shell out a little bit more. From the Asakusabashi Station, we were at the Tsukiji Station in no time.

The main market of Tsukiji is about a kilometer from the subway station. On the way to the inner market, you'll pass by Tsukiji's outer market filled with wholesale and retail shops that sell seafood and other food items, kitchen tools, and restaurant supplies, and restaurants that sell sushi and other Japanese delights. You'll have to come early since shops in the outer market are closed by the afternoon, and those in the inner market even earlier!

At Tsukiji, the first thing that greeted us was the constant traffic of forklifts and small vehicles moving about. The scene looked like it was pulled out of a Star Wars movie! We walked about enjoying the different seafood on sale. The fish market is said to handle more than 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 300-kilogram tuna, from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar!

After exploring a good part of Tsukiji, we heard our stomachs rumble and it was time for breakfast. On the menu was sushi of course! We got ourselves some breakfast sushi boats which range from ¥1000 to ¥2000 each. After that sumptuous seafood feast, we made our way back to the youth hostel to catch up on sleep before our 10 a.m. checkout.

Part 1: Konichiwa from Tokyo, Japan!
Part 3: Tokyo is a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics
Part 4: Sensō-ji Temple in the Asakusa District (Taitō, Tokyo)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Japan: Konichiwa from Tokyo, Japan!

I found myself out of the country again. This time I was back in Tokyo, Japan to attend the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit 2008 at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-So. According to the Asia Society, "The Summit brings together some 200 of the most dynamic next generation leaders from the Asia-Pacific and the US to explore imaginative ways to address the most critical issues facing the Asia-Pacific community today, develop common approaches to addressing these shared challenges, and cultivate the long-term relationships necessary for developing responses." Every year, ten young Filipino leaders from various sectors get to participate in the program.

Our schedule was really hectic. In fact, we only had an hour or two to rest the day we arrived before the Welcome Dinner in the evening. Of course, we had a sake toast to open the summit! Before calling it a day, I joined the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The next day was the summit proper. So we were in the hotel most of the time. Even breakfast and lunch were working meals! The highlight of the day was a dinner reception at the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower hosted by Mrs. Yoshiko Mori. The 52nd floor is home to the Tokyo City View and the Mori Art Museum. We were afforded great views of Tokyo at night!

After the reception, we were treated to karaoke and drinks at L Garden. We didn't stay up too late since we still had an other summit day.

Here are photos from the trip:
2008-11-14/15 Tokyo, Japan
2008-11-16/17 Tokyo, Japan
2008-11-18 Kyoto, Japan
2008-11-19 Nara, Japan
2008-11-20 Nagoya, Japan

Part 2: Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan
Part 3: Tokyo is a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics
Part 4: Sensō-ji Temple in the Asakusa District (Taitō, Tokyo)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zamboanga: Zamboanga City's colorful heritage

One thing I get to enjoy attending all these out-of-town conferences is that I get to explore the place after. So before flying back to Manila, we made sure to visit (revisit in some cases) the different cultural attractions of Zamboanga City. The cultural fabric of Asia's Latin City is evindently intact and one call definitely feel Zambaonga's spirit of place as we went around the city.

After visiting a Gabaldon school building restored by the City Government of Zamboanga, we visited the Western Mindanao State University where an outstanding example of a building designed by Juan Arellano stands. It is arguably one of the best Arellano buildings in the country. And it's silently stands in the heart of Zamboanga City!

As Archt. Toti Villalon mentions in his column, "More outstanding than anything I saw in Zamboanga is the main building of Western Mindanao State University. An undiscovered gem of American colonial architecture from the early 20th century, it is a wonderful example of Beaux Arts favored by the American colonial government, which was adapted to tropical conditions with large window openings, high ceilings with floor-through interior ventilation and excellent architectural craftsmanship in its moldings, doors and wrought-iron grillwork."

We also dropped by the local hospital which was of the hospital pavilion layout that was popular during the American colonial period, the PGH design that became the standard for American hospitals in tropical areas.

From there, we proceeded to Plaza Pershing. We requested Mayor Lobregat to keep the grass and avoid placing pavers since the park is a fine example of public parks during the American colonial period.

From there we walked to Zamboanga City Hall. Our guide, at the request of the mayor, treated us to his rendition of Rizal's El Ultimo Adios right in front of the Rizal Monument.

After a tour of city hall, our group proceeded to Fort Pilar, which is a national cultural treasure, before proceeding to the Barter Market to do some shopping.

The Barter Market is a great place to get textiles both local and imported. It's a good place to buy batik and Arafat scarves (if you bargain well, you can get one for PHP75 or even lower). In fact, you'll see a good number of Malaysian and Indonesian products such as instant noodles, candies and other items.

Our last stop for the morning was the Yakan Weaving Village where one could purchase fine examples of Yakan woven products. Also available there are banig from Sulu and other woven items from the nearby Muslim provinces. If you're lucky, you can watch the women weave cloth.

For lunch, we proceeded to a Malaysian mamak in Zamboanga! It was among my favorite eating places the last time I was in Zamboanga and I made sure we stopped at Tini's before going home. As always, I ordered roti telur and murtabak. But I think the curry sauce in Malaysia is still best.

In the afternoon, we visited the Gabaldon school in the Mercedes District and the Taluksangay Mosque. The school is intact but the mosque is not. In just two years, the historical fabric of the mosque had been destroyed by unguided renovations. There was a really nice view of the mosque from the river. But that image is now gone with the roof they placed to cover the entire grounds of the mosque. Sad to say, the mosque had a marker of the NHI. I wonder how it got renovated.

Part 1: Another Zamboanga City adventure
Part 2: Seafood in Zamboanga City at Alavar's Restaurant

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Hola Zamboanga!

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Off the beaten track in Basilan

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Zamboanga: Seafood in Zamboanga City at Alavar's Restaurant

I'm not a seafood person but I know for a fact that Zamboanga City takes pride in its seafood restaurants. I've always heard about Alavar's Restaurant and it was great that Mayor Celso Lobregat decided to host dinner for us there.

They served us so much! One of their best sellers would be the curacha with Alavar's sauce (curacha con salsa Alavar's). Curacha is a species of crab abundant in Zamboanga waters.

I particularly enjoyed the grilled imbao with garlic and butter and the seafood paella. But since I am not a seafood person, I was content with the crispy pata and found myself stuffed to the brim.

Alavar's Restaurant
Don Alfaro Street, Tetuan, Zamboanga City

Part 1: Another Zamboanga City adventure
Part 3: Zamboanga City's colorful heritage

Related posts
Hola Zamboanga!

Sta. Cruz Island and its pink sand

Off the beaten track in Basilan
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