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Cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur

27896 Views 16 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  chunjye
Spotlight: At home in faraway city of Kuala Lumpur

10 April, 2006

These days, Kuala Lumpur has taken on an even more cosmopolitan feel. While we have grown used to Chinatown in Petaling Street, Little India in Jalan Masjid India (where everything from the latest Bollywood music video to the most up-to-date styles in bangles can be had) and Little Japan in Sri Hartamas and well, each and every Isetan supermarket, there are now more communities springing up all over the city. Welcome to Little Myanmar, Little Nepal and Arab Square, write ANITA ANANDARAJAH and SAM CHEONG. LITTLE MYANMAR

JALAN Silang in downtown Kuala Lumpur is the meeting point for buses passing through the city, bringing with them hordes of immigrants. Walk along this street and one will be besieged by signboards in Urdu, Burmese and Nepali.

Walk along this street on a Sunday and you may well think you are in Bangladesh.

Shops hawking IDD phone cards, mobile phones, film processing and sundries dominate a landscape already choked with fumes and deafening honking from indiscriminately parked buses.

This is nonetheless where the homesick come to get their fix of home. At Kham Myint Sdn Bhd, items from a home far away adorn the shelves.

The Myanmar Times and 7 Day News Journal bring news from home once a week while 90:00 Minutes and First Eleven sports journals are also popular.

Traditional herbal concoctions for ailments ranging from sore throats to spotty skin are also sold here. The yellow thanaka paste used by Myanmar folk to protect their skin from the sun is also sold here for RM3 a jar, while a 10cm piece of the thanaka wood found in the dry northern region of Myanmar goes for RM3.50.

Also on sale are the lung ji, the equivalent of our sarong, chaw (leather slippers), music CDs and books.

One longing for some native music can choose from original music CDs by popular artistes like Iron Cross, Tun Eaindra Bu and Ane Nge.

Books are also aplenty, ranging from those on Buddhism to languages (English and Malay) and education (car engines, Windows XP, etc) and fiction.

The proprietor of Kham Myint is U Tin Myint. He set up shop six years ago and imports his stocks from Yangon. His two young daughters attend a Chinese medium primary school here and he speaks fluent Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Then, there is Tway Tway Tun Latt, who arrived here in 1999. She and her husband own a mini market, the Theid Di Win restaurant and a hair salon, which they set up a year ago in Lot 11 along Jalan Silang.

The restaurant serves traditional Myanmar cuisine including mohinga (fish broth noodles) which is Myanmar’s national dish. During the two visits we made to the shop — between 10.15am and 11am — we found it packed with Burmese enjoying their lunch.

"Our prices are cheap; only RM4 for a meal because the workers can’t afford much," said Tway. That RM4 fetches a handsome meal of one meat dish (pork, mutton, fish or chicken), rice, soup, vegetable (boiled angle beans and cucumber slices with sambal dip) and free Chinese tea.

Burmese cuisine is a curious blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian food. The pork dish we sampled tasted like pork in soya sauce stew (tau eu bak) and the vegetable was just like ulam.

On the top floor of the same building is the hair salon where hair-cuts go for a surprisingly steep RM10 for men and RM12 for women. Despite this, customers stream in especially on Sundays and public holidays.

Tway explained why: "Here, they are comfortable. They can speak Burmese."

Apart from these shops, there is also a medical clinic, a dental clinic and a supermarket catering to this community in the nearby Bangunan Cahaya Suria.

Most shops owned by these immigrants are situated on the first, second and third floors with the exception of Kham Myint. Rent is RM6,000 for the ground floor and upwards of RM1,500 for the rest.

An observer mentioned that come Sundays, thousands of foreign workers throng Jalan Silang. They congregate to catch up with friends.

Entertainment in malls can be expensive; sitting along the five-foot way is free. They take photographs, buy budget IDD cards to place telephone calls home, and buy cheap clothes at her shop.

"Just before they return to their home country, the Burmese buy blankets. They also come here to buy nice clothes as gifts."

Most Burmese nationals reside in the Imbi area. A spokesperson from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar estimates that there are 40,000 legally employed Burmese in Malaysia.


When Nepali Jhamsay Gurung came to Malaysia as a foreign worker last year, he suffered from homesickness.

Without a single clue on how to get around the city, the 28-year-old learned two words which brought him "closer" to home: Jalan Silang. After all, this is where several Nepali grocery stores and restaurants are located.

Here at "Little Nepal", Gurung can get a taste of home-cooked food and buy sundry goods specially imported by his countrymen, who have set up shop in the city. Not many people who live and work in Kuala Lumpur realise that some of these Nepali shops have been around for as long as three years.

The influx of more than 80,000 Nepali workers into Malaysia was seen as an opportunity by local traders here who have formed an alliance with their Nepali counterparts to import some essential goods into the country.

Gurung, a line operator in an electronics factory in Puchong, makes regular trips to Jalan Silang every weekend to meet up with fellow Nepalis and catch up with the latest development back home via newsletters and magazines flown in by the traders.

"Ini saja ada, makan pun bagus, barang juga beli," he said in broken Malay. (Only available here, the food is good and there are things to buy.)

Needless to say, the whole area feels very foreign. When you walk into Himalaya Restaurant, which is on the first floor of a multi-storey building on Jalan Silang, the Nepali customers will look up in surprise. Their looks seem to say, "Are you lost? What are you doing here?"

On weekends, the place is packed but weekdays also seem to attract a steady crowd of Nepali customers.

Highly recommended, according to a waiter there, is the mutton-bhat or Nepali-style meat curry with rice. A basic serving of rice and mutton, chicken or pork costs about RM6.

The waiter, a young Ghurka from the Himalayan foothills, said mutton was the favourite choice followed by pork. And no meal was complete without a serving of fried momo, a popular pastry in Nepal as well as Tibet.

Besides food, the customers here are also treated to Nepali music videos shown on a large-screen television. This, said the Ghurka youth, made most of the diners feel at home.

Across the street from the restaurant is a Nepali general store called Bhijaya Export. It’s located on the first floor and this is where Gurung and his fellow Nepalis get their groceries and other personal grooming items.

Here, you will find toothpaste, soap and shampoo, which have been imported directly from the homeland. Prices range from RM2 to RM10 for these essentials.

"A packet of instant noodles costs as much as 15 rupees (RM1.20) in Nepal. We price it slightly higher here because of the exchange rate," said a worker.


There is a curious little pocket off Jalan Bukit Bintang; a concrete arch next to Finnegan’s Irish pub that beckons with the words Ain Arabia.

The literal translation is Eye Arab (the grammatically correct version should read al Ain Arabiya which would translate to "The Eye of Arabia").

Since Ala H. Salih set up the Sahara Tent restaurant at the Fortuna Hotel five years ago, tourists, embassy officials and students have been making a beeline to al Mantaga al Arabiya or "the Arabian area".

Hotel manager A. Selvarajah acknowledged the draw of the restaurant may be due to the 20 per cent increase in tourist arrivals from the Middle East between the third week of June and September.

"This is the school holiday season. Incidentally, it is also the mega-sale period here. Half of these arrivals are from Saudi Arabia; others are from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt," he said.

According to Selvarajah, the guests are mostly families who stay five to 10 days.

Ala’s plan was to provide for the needs of Arabs. "I wanted to give them service in one place," explained the mustachioed Iraqi.

He brought in fellow countryman Mahmood Mahdi to cut hair the way Arab men liked it.

"Not many barbers here are good at trimming beards. We have many styles — and some men need to have their facial hair removed by threading. For some, this has to be done every three days," said Ala, who acted as a translator for Mahmood.

Apart from the hair salon, the other four shops adjacent to the Fortuna Hotel are a mini market, a travel agency, two souvenir shops and the Hay-al Arab Restaurant, which serves Yemeni cuisine.

Naab’s mini market stocks products like canned tomatoes, bottled olives, Lebanese bread, a variety of cheeses and dates.

The Jet Connections travel agency’s clientele is 90 per cent Arab. They opt for local tours to Penang, Langkawi and Genting Highlands.

The al-Khaima souvenir shop stocks Arabic music CDs, VCDs, shisha pipes, tobacco, perfume oils and incense wood chips.

Fronting Hotel Fortuna and Sahara Tent is a small plot of land, dotted with concrete benches, stalls (not yet operational) and monuments, popular in the evenings with Malaysians and Middle Easterners.

Be mindful that an excursion to Jalan Berangan should take place after noon. The shops and restaurants operate from 12pm till 1am.

"When Malaysia sleeps, the Arabs wake up," Ala said.
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Yep it's much more cosmopolitan than before.

From The Vancouver Sun. Makes me prouder that this comes from a Canadian ;)

Wonders of peaceful coexistence in Malaysia

Country of Muslims, Chinese, Indians seems to have established rules and conventions needed to tolerate almost everything, couple finds
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Font: * * * * Lloyd and Nazma Lee, Special to the Sun
Published: Saturday, March 25, 2006
Lloyd and Nazma Lee of Richmond have taken time off from their careers as, respectively, an engineer and a lawyer, to travel the world. Here they report from Malaysia.

In Vancouver, we take multiculturalism for granted. Going for sushi or butter chicken with a bunch of your friends, each one from different ethnic backgrounds, is simply no big deal.

Being a multicultural couple (Chinese and Indian) we're always curious to see how everyone in and outside Canada manages (or sadly, sometimes fails to manage) to get along.

So how then does a country like Muslim Malaysia, known for its diversity, handle its sizable Chinese and Indian populations?

Actually, having given this long preamble, I can tell you now that while we both came to Malaysia to explore this meeting of cultures, Nazma, being learned and worldly, wanted to see and experience the ethnic diversity, while I, being infantile and excited by gross things, had heard about a festival where people pierced themselves with spears and dragged heavy objects tied to hooks embedded in their backs.

Well, we both got what we were looking for.

Thaipusam is a Hindu celebration dedicated to Muragan, son of the god Shiva, and is a time for penance, atonement and a giving of thanks. Early Tamil settlers in Malaysia began the yearly ritual where now hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Malays, Chinese and unsuspecting tourists like us flow up the 272 steps to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Many devotees bring offerings of milk, but some carry the kavadi, huge shrines on platforms decorated with garlands, tinsel, feathers and paintings of deities. The devotees may carry these shrines on their shoulders, supported by rods that poke into their flesh, or they may pull them on rollers, from an array of steel hooks piercing their back and chest. The devotees claim they feel no pain -- their faith allows them to do astonishing things.

We had never seen so many people in one place before: Reports later said the crowd was a million strong, and we were right in the middle of it. The sun was relentless. The throngs, dressed in every colour imaginable, stretched out as far as my heat-addled vision could see; my shirt was completely soaked through with my own sweat and that of untold others; Nazma clutched my shoulder as the bodies pressed in, moving us inexorably toward the yawning cave.

Everyone else knew why they were here, their singular purpose a show of faith. We had to remind ourselves constantly that we were here to witness something extraordinary. The entire experience was surreal, even transcendent.

Still, in the middle of all this, we were amazed to see hijab-wearing Malays carrying milk jugs up the steps, and Chinese businessmen coming to give thanks for a prosperous year. This wasn't an "oddity" particular to one group of people: Everyone was present and equal before the towering statue of Lord Murugan.

We spent the next few weeks in Malaysia being mistaken for Malaysians, as we wandered through Chinatowns and Little Indias in various cities. Everything we saw told us of a peaceful coexistence, but with a few concessions. Restaurants with food unsuitable for Muslims are usually marked "non-halal," and beer is available at any 7-Eleven, but only to "non-Muslims," and with a 200-per-cent tax built-in. Malaysia seems to have established the rules and conventions it needs in order to tolerate almost everything.

And yet this hasn't eroded anyone's traditions; placed aside one another, each stands out in sharper relief. The latest Malay love stories, Tamil musicals and Chinese kung-fu epics all share equal billing in the cineplexes. If anything, Malaysian society has only improved universal access to culture, and everyone accepts and partakes. While on the surface the notion of a Chinatown or Little India might seem like ghettoization, in 21st century Malaysia it's no more segregationist than putting the cereal and the canned goods in different aisles at the supermarket. It just means that everyone knows where to go to get good char kuay teow (fried noodles) or masala thosai.

In Georgetown on the island of Penang, we met Margaret, a Hakka Chinese woman who spoke five languages, including excellent English, as a necessity -- to communicate at school (Malay), at home (Hakka), and with her friends (Cantonese, Mandarin).

Margaret told us about a tour of the town's religious structures, all located on the appropriately named Street of Harmony. In the end we woke up too late, so we self-guided and found ourselves at the town's main mosque, where the Malay at the information office led us around inside. "They believe what they believe -- no problem," he said of the Hindu temple down the street.

On past the Anglican church and the Roman Catholic cathedral, we stopped at the Chinese temple. This was no relic of the old days -- it is still an active place of worship after more than 200 years. People were bustling in and out, burning incense and offerings to Buddha and the gods of protection and prosperity. Here an old man, hobbling on his crutch, led us to each of the stations, explaining who it was we were bowing to. "Malays, Tamils, everyone comes to pray to Kuan Ti, but no one knows how to do it properly. That's why I'm here," he explained in Cantonese.

We'd seen little move for religious conversion or dominance in the places we'd visited -- just an atmosphere of forbearance and respect.

On our last day in Malaysia, we found ourselves sitting next to three Tamil transgendered prostitutes, in a Malaysian greasy spoon (we were having lunch; they were having dinner), in the middle of Chinatown, with the call to prayer wafting through the hot noontime streets from the nearby mosque, which was itself built by Bengali settlers. The ethnic diversity here all seems to work, but at times like these, it does make you sit up and take notice.

If Canada, 200 years from now, enjoys this kind of harmony, with polyglot citizens and diverse places of worship still full of the faithful, the richness and colour of Canadian culture will truly be something to be proud of.
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Porsche Design sets up shop in KL

Sharmini Angela

Porsche Design's first franchise store in Kuala Lumpur is located in Starhill Gallery.

Porsche Design has opened its first franchise store here with a unique store concept, in Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

"The store will not espouse the conventional shop window display, rather it will 'mirror' the products that Porsche Design offers. We have achieved this with the 'Gate to the Future'," reveals Porsche Design Group president and CEO Siegmund Rudigier on the unique store concept.

The Gate to the Future comprises three plasma monitors located on the left, centre and walls of the store, and the scan table - a square slate block positioned in the centre, incorporating a scanner and a monitor.

When a customer places a product on this scan table, animated films incorporating product images and information appear on the three plasma monitors. An impression of the opening of the 'Gate to the Future' is thus created virtually.

Night shopping is another new and important feature of the store architecture: arrows installed in the shop windows allow customers to surf the product range by night. Using touch control, selected products can be displayed on the window and the relevant product information called up.

Porsche has been creating classic men's fashion accessories since 1972. The franchise partner, Swiss-based trading conglomerate DKSH, has been active with various luxury brands for 150 years in Asia.

The company has five of its own stores worldwide and 10 franchise stores. There would be approximately 30 stores emerging in the next five years.

"Over the next few years, Porsche Design will be developed into one of the leading premium brands in the high quality accessories segment.

"We are therefore pursuing an exclusive and selective distribution concept for Porsche Design in line with its market position. In cooperation with our new master franchise partner DKSH we will strengthen our presence in Asian countries," said Rudigier.

Customers can expect classic men's accessories such as timepieces, eyewear, pocket knives, luggage and leather goods. The KL store carries the entire product range of Porsche Desgin.
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'I am much sexier than Rani, Ash'

Subhash K. Jha (IANS)
Mumbai, April 15, 2006

Saif Ali Khan, who recently underwent an emergency appendectomy in Kuala Lumpur, says it is high time he tied the knot with his long-standing girlfriend Rosa.

"I think we should get married. My mom thinks we should," Saif said in an interview.

Currently he is in Los Angeles as part of a concert but he is not allowed to perform and is feeling guilty about it.

"At the end of every show I don't even break into a sweat. That's how little I am doing for the tour. And I ask myself, what the hell am I doing?"

Saif is excited about his face appearing on an Australian stamp. "I'm excited about it. I've ordered 50 of those stamps. I'll probably frame one in my study."

Is Rosa with you in LA?
She's joined me from England. I think we should get married. My mom thinks we should.

Saif, how are you coping with the concerts after your operation?
I am doing okay. I have been jetlagged. I haven't performed much, so it's a bit depressing. They are paying me well, so here I am on stage. I didn't have to come for the concerts. But I did because I wanted to.

In fact, Sushmita (Sen) mentioned it on stage. She said something very cool. She said the show would have been finished if I hadn't come along. I am not dancing... Maybe I'll play the guitar in my next concert. There's some hectic travelling. But I am relaxed.

You are feeling guilty?
Yeah... At the end of every show I don't even break into a sweat. That's how little I am doing for the tour. And I ask myself, what the hell am I doing? I had seen how hard Shah Rukh Khan worked during our Temptations tour. I know it isn't my fault if I had surgery.

But they really love me out here. When I see the audiences' response I am like... 'Wow!' They probably feel sympathetic towards me for limping to LA after surgery.

That surgery was sudden!
You can say that again! It wasn't laser surgery. The surgeon used a knife on my stomach. But it was really good surgery. I can't think of a better place than Malaysia to fall ill. The hospital was unbelievably clean, like a five-star hotel. Also not expensive... not that it mattered at a time like that. But when I saw the hospital bills, I didn't baulk.

Your face has been put on an Australian stamp...
I don't think it's a big deal. They just captured a particular moment from the Commonwealth Games, and I happened to be part of that moment where India is being represented. I looked up the other stamps on the Internet, which have been released for the occasion...It wasn't like they decided, 'Let's put Saif Ali Khan on the stamp'.

I just happened to be there. But yes, I'm excited about it. I've ordered 50 of those stamps. I'll probably frame one in my study. But it isn't like Satyajit Ray being felicitated for his contribution to cinema or something.

But the spoilsports say, why him?
The spoilsports - that's a good one - don't realise they weren't celebrating an Indian star but the spirit of India. So these spoilsports can just put their fangs away. But it's great fun. Someone asked, why not Rani (Mukerji) and Ash (Aishwarya Rai)? I said I am much sexier.

The spoilsports also think you shouldn't have charged huge money at the Commonwealth Games.
First of all, it wasn't huge. It was what one normally gets paid to perform at a televised event. And if they didn't want stars, they could have got routine dancers for a much lesser price. No one pays you until they think you are worth it. And these people didn't even argue about the money. Perhaps this is the first time we got paid for a government-sponsored event. Maybe that's bothering some people. Not me, though.

Did you enjoy doing the bhangra with Rani?
Oh yes! It was one helluva spectacle. I thought it would be just an ordinary stage performance. But when I got to the stage in Melbourne I saw 800 dancers. This was the same playing field where my grandfather and father had played cricket. So it was an unbelievable experience...with an unbelievable amount of people.

Do you still regret not being a cricketer?
Not any more. I used to regret it until recently. But cricket was never a serious career option.

Until recently you were seen as a frivolous hedonist in your close circle.
That I still am...okay, no longer so. It's time for me to get serious.
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I'm very curious about AIN ARABIA in Bkt Bintang... any pics of it?
Saturday July 8, 2006

A home away from home for the Koreans

Photos by CHUA KOK HWA


THERE are pockets in Kuala Lumpur dominated by certain communities, due to the commercial concentration of a particular group of people like Petaling Street where Chinese traders holler in unison to attract customers or over at Masjid India and Lebuh Ampang where there�s a healthy mix of Indians from all over India.

Most of the restaurants in the area cater to the Korean community.
At Kampung Baru, Malay businesses dot the landscape and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Bukit Bintang abound with local and international companies.

Not far from Kuala Lumpur�s boundaries is One Ampang Avenue, also known as the Korean district simply because a large number of its residents are Koreans.

One Ampang Avenue�s business centre is in close proximity with One Ampang Avenue condominiums, with its North Point, East Point and South Point towers.

Located opposite Ampang Point, it neighbours Taman Ampang Utama and is not too far from Taman Ampang Hilir.

Korean Mart is one of three mini markets found in the area.
During business hours, One Ampang Avenue is packed with cars and people, and it is common to see Korean women, teenagers and school children in these parts at mini markets and restaurants.

Korean Society in Malaysia chairman Lee Kwang Sun said there were approximately 10,000 Koreans in Malaysia with up to 80% in the Klang Valley.

Koh opened his restaurant because of the population base in the area.
�There are at least 3,000 Koreans residing at One Ampang Avenue.

�We find it convenient because there are a lot of Korean restaurants and shops that cater to our needs,� explained Lee.

Korean families are also found in great numbers at nearby residential areas in the Ampang Jaya municipality.

The main reason for this concentration is the several international schools in the area.

Han Yong helps provide Korean touches when it comes to hairstyling.
Lee said living within close range of schools was important to Korean families.

He said Koreans arrived in Malaysia more than 40-years ago.

�I believe the first Koreans here were doctors and, back then, Ampang wasn�t much of a township.

�The area was still very rural,� said Lee, an International Islamic University graduate who has lived in Malaysia for 23 years.

However, with the growth of Kuala Lumpur, it was only natural that the suburbs would catch on and in no time, areas nearest to the border took development in stride.

Vice chairman Hong Seung Hoon echoed Lee�s sentiments about the Korean district and enjoyed all it had to offer.

Ahn Luphina, who works in the Korean district, says there is plenty of Korean food here.

�We have an Iranian outlet, an Indian restaurant and a Swiss restaurant but the rest are Korean restaurants.

�So if I want to have Chinese food, I would have to cross the busy Jalan Ampang to get to Ampang Point.

�Since it is too much of a hassle to find a parking spot at Ampang Point and too dangerous to cross the road from One Ampang Avenue, I usually end up dining at one of the Korean outlets,� said Luphina.

Koh Wi-Hwan said it was the strength of the population in the area that was the deciding factor for him to open his Korean BBQ Restaurant.

The district has three mini markets here including Korean Mart and Lotte Mart which sees a steady stream of Korean shoppers and even some locals.

There are also several Korean hair saloons with Korean hair stylists, like Han Yong, to provide a Korean touch for the tresses.

Taman Ampang Utama borders on One Ampang Avenue.
Since a lot of the businesses in the area are run by Koreans, the society has also set up a Committee of Korean Self Defence that employs a security force to guard the area.

Lee said the society hopes the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) will consider building a pedestrian bridge to connect One Ampang Avenue to Ampang Point.

�The Korean people are willing to contribute to the bridge project and we hope the government will allocate funds to construct a bridge as it is much needed.

�There have been many accidents as it is very dangerous to cross the road,� Lee said.

The Mu Gung Hwa Centre is a private Korean Culture and Arts centre set up by Jeong-Yi de Villaret.

Luphina says there are many Korean restaurants in the area, making it easy to find food.20
Jeong-Yi lives in Bangsar but makes her way to One Ampang Avenue almost every day because of the centre and for Korean food.

She has lived in Malaysia for 15 years and decided to do something to share her culture with others hence the centre.

She started at a small premise before opening the present Mu Gung Hwa Centre, a three-storey establishment with a library, art and exhibition space, and conference room and relaxation corner.

�Here, people can come and read up on Korean culture and history as there are books on these subjects,� she said.

So, if you are planning a trip to Korea, it might be a good idea to stop over at the Korean district to sample a taste of its hospitality, food and culture at One Ampang Avenue.
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Wednesday July 19, 2006

Dancing to the beat of drums


THE 30th Bon Odori Festival last Saturday at the Matsushita Sports Centre, Shah Alam, saw an overwhelming turnout with thousands gathering for the celebration.

Many came dressed in colourful yukatas (summer kimonos) while holding on to the gaily-decorated fans distributed for free at the gates. Everyone eagerly anticipated the start of the event at 7pm.

Organized this year by the Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur, the Selangor state government and the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur, the event was graced by Japanese Ambassador Tadashi Imai.

The beating of the taiko drums by Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur students on the yagura (stage or elevated platform in the middle of the field) marked the start of the festival.

The strong beat of the drums kept the tempo up.
The drums, accompanied by instruments like gongs and flutes, thundered around the stadium as young girls in yukatas and geta (Japanese wooden sandals) danced to songs like Dai Tokyo Ondo and Oisama Ondo, a song written to commemorate the Japanese School's 20th year in Malaysia, about 20 years ago.

The crowd was not to be left out, joining in the dances with laughter and camaraderie as they waved their fans in the air and moved their feet.

Some of the numbers were slow and elaborate, while others came across as fast-paced with simpler movements.

While very much a cultural festival, the roots of Bon Odori can be traced back to a religious ceremony.

The word “bon” means dance while “odori” is from an abbreviated name of a Buddhist text, the Ullambana Sutra, whose Japanese pronunciation is Urabon, shortened to Bon.

According to a publication, the Urabon festival is a time where family members from all over Japan returned to their hometowns and cleaned up the resting places of their ancestors.

A dancer showing off the moves for the dances.
Lanterns and food offerings will be displayed in houses for the departed when their spirits come back and visit. The Bon Odori, and the dance associated with it, is believed to have originated from this tradition of paying homage to the dead.

Although the timing varies, the festival is usually celebrated during the summer months of July and August.

But today, the festival has become a popular get-together that celebrates the advent of summer. Participants who did not join in the dances were content to sit around and bask in the atmosphere.

Kato Chieko from Tokyo was spotted carrying her one-year-and-three-month old daughter Haruka Sato as they swayed to the rhythm of the music.

“I came to visit my parents who are living here and dropped by for this celebration. It’s not that different in terms of the dances here and back home, but the celebration in Japan is carried out on a smaller scale.

“Each town and village would have their own individual celebrations,” she said.

During the dance intervals, guest performers from universities and schools in the Klang Valley performed various re-arranged orthodox folk dances together with their Japanese counterparts.

The various stalls set up also had brisk business that night as the assorted Japanese food was quickly snapped up. Festivities ended at about 9.30pm following a closing speech and the crowd began drifting away in high spirits after two-and-a-half hours of revelry.

Wednesday July 19, 2006

Long history to colourful event

BON Odori was introduced to Malaysia in 1977 when it was originally organised by Japanese schools and their parent-teacher associations (PTAs) to remind their children of home and teach them Japanese culture.

Soon, people began to know about the event and family and friends of expatriates were invited, adding to the growing number of people celebrating the festival.

The schools and PTA continued organising the event until 1983 and, by 1984, it had expanded to such an extent that it was opened to the public.

As the original organisers began facing difficulties with the scale of the event, the Ja-panese Club took over the responsibility for organising the annual event.

From 1992 to 2000, Bon Odori festivals were held at the Matsushita Sports Centre, before the event received the support of the Selangor state government a year later who then offered the stadium to be used for the annual festival.

In Malaysia, besides Selangor, Bon Odori is also celebrated in Penang, Ipoh, and Johor, organised by their own Japan Clubs.

The festival is celebrated in community-based style and is said to have the biggest crowd in the world with nearly 30,000 participants attending each year.
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Monday October 9, 2006

They call Malaysia ‘home’

There are many foreigners who make their homes in Malaysia: from Middle Easterners and South Koreans to Americans and Filipinos. ELIZABETH TAI discovers what draws them here.

KUALA Lumpur has always been rich in ethnic culture, what with traditional ethnic enclaves in places such as Chinatown on Petaling Street and Little India in the Masjid Jamek area.

Along busy Jalan Silang in Kuala Lumpur, it is not unusual to hear people speaking in Nepali and Burmese, or to see shops catering to those from Nepal and Myanmar.
However, with more foreign workers and expatriates coming to live here, Kuala Lumpur is increasingly more diverse.

Jalan Silang, Kuala Lumpur, looks like many of the streets around the Masjid Jamek LRT station that is full of old shop houses. Yet, among the mamak shops and Chinese grocery stores are mini marts which cater to people from Myanmar and Nepal. As you walk down this busy street, you can hear Burmese and Nepali spoken; it is no wonder this place is nicknamed “Little Nepal and Myanmar”.

At Kedai Eaindra, one of the many “exporter and importer and general trading” stores, you can find newspapers such as The Myanmar Times and Nepal Sandesh National Weekly tucked between wares, like baskets of vegetables and spices.

A shop worker followed me around the store. He seemed proud to show me the various Myanmar spices and snacks in the store.

“Myanmar,” he said as he showed me a small container of dried ikan bilis. “Myanmar,” he said as he gestured towards a row of VCDs.

Meanwhile, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, residential areas such as Sri Hartamas and Mont Kiara have become quite an international neighbour hood, thanks to the international schools in the area.

Little Korea

One such area is One Ampang Avenue where it is not unusual to see stores bearing signage in three languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English, and Korean.

Here, in an enclave that is now called “Little Korea” – thanks to the large South Korean population here (about 3,000 strong) – there are restaurants, salons, Internet cafes and a supermarket selling varied things like South Korean-produced detergent, imported soda drinks, magazines in Korean and Koshihikari rice. Outside the supermarket is a wall where notices – many written in Korean – advertise services, rented apartments and second-hand cars.

Son Byung Ho owns Bee Won, one of the many Korean BBQ restaurants in the area.

He greeted this reporter with a smile, saying proudly that his restaurant offers great Korean cuisine like spicy soup, marinated beef ribs and bool kogee (barbequed seasoned beef).

Although Son runs a Korean restaurant, he also tries Malaysian cuisine.

“The spicy food in Malaysia is similar to Korean food. I like bak kut teh and satay,” he said.

Son moved to Malaysia in December, after spending a few years working in a Hyundai branch in Sri Lanka.

Korean restaurants are a common sight in One Ampang Avenue.
After retiring, Son couldn’t decide which country to settle in, but when he visited Malaysia last September, he made up his mind.

“Many South Koreans do not know Malaysia well, but once they come here, they are surprised to see how developed it is. Everything is okay; the living cost is very low.

“I like it here in Malaysia. There are many Koreans here, it’s quiet, the security is good and the education is good,” he said.

Educating his children well is very important to Son, who has four children who are studying in international schools around One Ampang Avenue.

In fact, many South Koreans are sending their children to Malaysia to study. The reason why One Ampang Avenue is such a popular spot for Koreans is because it is close to many international schools such as International School of Kuala Lumpur, St Paul, Sri Utama and Fairview, said Lee Kwang Sun, chairman of the Korean Society in Malaysia.

“English is very important to Koreans now. So is the Chinese language. Many Korean companies are, after all, trading with China,” said Lee Jeong Rim, Secretary General of the Korean Society in Malaysia

Korean signs can be seen hanging outside some shops around One Ampang Avenue. The area is dubbed ‘Little Korea’ due to the concentration of South Koreans living there.
Many South Koreans are also moving to Malaysia under the “Malaysia My Second Home” programme.

“The first time they come to Malaysia, they may not understand Malaysian culture,” said Kwang Sun, who has lived here for 23 years and was a Business Administration graduate from Universiti Islam Antarabangsa.

“In Malaysia, there are many mosques. In South Korea, there are many churches. In fact, we only have five mosques in South Korea,” said Kwang Sun, who is a Muslim.

However, living in Malaysia has its share of problems. The Korean Society not only organises activities and charity events; it also helps the South Korean community with problems such as lobbying for an overhead bridge so that residents can cross the street safely to Ampang Point, handling car accidents for members (as many can’t speak Bahasa Malaysia or English) and other complaints.

One complaint they have received is the difficulty that some South Korean residents face when they apply to open a savings or current account – apparently due to their not having a working permit or proper visa.

Arab Street

On a busy Sunday, many Arab tourists mingle with local shoppers in the malls around the Golden Triangle or nearby Suria KLCC. However, in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, there is a street dubbed “Ain Arabia” which many Arabs patronise because it’s a little piece of home away from home.

The place is located at Jalan Berangan, Kuala Lumpur, and one can find a mini market called Naab, a laundry and dry-cleaning service and, most importantly, there is the restaurant Sahara Tent, arguably the centre of Arab Street, which overlooks an Arabian-themed garden. (Incidentally, one can also find an Arabian perfume store at the LRT station next to Lot 10.)

Five years ago, Aladdin H. Salih decided to open a restaurant at the foot of Fortuna Hotel because he saw the potential: there weren’t many services for the Arab tourist, and he dreamed about creating a community for them in Malaysia.

Over the years, the restaurant – called Sahara Tent – has become the focal point of the tiny Arab enclave. The restaurant, with its Moorish arches and tinkling fountains, often draws Arab patrons (though the restaurant is also popular with the locals). Many can be seen dining in the restaurant’s lush carpeted interior (with privacy booths for veiled women to dine in private) or smoking pipes outside.

Aladdin, or “Ala” as he is called, led me upstairs to the conference room, which is covered with ornate, plush carpets and textiles. There are also privacy booths which look like the tents used by the Bedouins.

“This is the only restaurant where we have a proper Arab chef who has been cooking for years,” he declared.

The restaurant offers Middle Eastern food, that is, Iraqi, Egyptian, Iranian and Yemeni cuisine. Many of the ingredients are imported – Ala is very fussy about quality, which is probably the reason why Sahara Tent was voted the Malaysian Tourism Board’s Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in 2001.

Aladdin H. Salih’s restaurant, Sahara Tent, is popular among Arab tourists and Malaysians alike.
The peak season is in June and July when Arabs flock to Malaysia as it is the school holidays over there, said Ala. It is during these months that Sahara Tent becomes a beehive of activity, so much so that the staff sometimes cannot cope with the influx of customers.

Many Arab tourists travel to Malaysia also to escape the scorching summer heat.

“At least here it is less hot. But not all Arabs are rich. That’s absolutely the wrong idea,” he said. “But it has become a habit and part of the culture to travel.”

Which is why he finds it disheartening that many merchants overcharge Arab tourists.

“Almost 100% of taxis do not use the meter when they pick up Arab tourists. Some hotels give Arab tourists different rates,” he said.

Also, he said that the Bukit Bintang area should be better policed as he has witnessed several Arab tourists getting robbed by snatch thieves.

Expat community

Marybeth Ramey, an American who has lived in Malaysia since 1998, also laments about the taxi drivers.

“I am blond-haired, blue-eyed and, anytime I am in Kuala Lumpur centre and hail a taxi, they attempt to rip me off. Or, they snarl that if I don’t know how to get to my own destination, then get out. Or the taxi cab smells so bad with body odour one wants to throw up. In the taxi driver’s defence, there is not much respect given to them as an industry,” she said.

Ramey, who is the editor of The Expat, a magazine that caters to the Malaysian expatriate community, said that most expats agree with local sentiment that littering, dirty toilets, unscrupulous taxi drivers, air pollution, fear of break-ins and snatch thefts are drawbacks to living in Kuala Lumpur.

“However, most expats come from a large city to begin with, so we are already cognizant of this as a global problem and not inherent just to Malaysia. I find it much safer here than in Bangkok,” she said.

After nearly eight years here, she regards Malaysia as home and even wants to live here permanently. She believes that her children have benefited greatly from their immersion in Asian culture and values.

For one, Ramey said that her 19-year-old son, who has lived in Malaysia since he was 10, is unlike most American teenagers.

“His parents are much more important in his life than are his peers. Family first. I love that. We don’t see this much anymore in the United States,” she said.

Based on the surveys conducted by the magazine, many expats like the very low cost of living in Malaysia.

“Everything imaginable is far cheaper than at home. They resoundingly love the choices they have for five-star cuisine, world-class shopping, the wide use of English, the top quality of the international schools, the amenities such as air-con availability, ability to hire very cheap staff for themselves and family, like maids, drivers and helpers. At home, these are unheard-of luxuries,” she said.

“Expats who are English-speaking tend to congregate in three areas: Bangsar Baru, Mont Kiara and Sri Hartamas, and the Bukit Bintang area, all in Kuala Lumpur. Some new areas are Heritage Row in Kuala Lumpur,” she said.

She believed that they like to go to these places because they can find like-minded companionship, shared interests, and outlets that cater to their taste in music and alcoholic beverages. It helps that English is widely used in these areas.

“And most have touches of home that expats find comforting,” she said.

“The only nationality that tends to stay together and only among themselves are the Japanese. They are friendly enough, but fear showing too much of themselves to be more open and so prefer to congregate together. The South Koreans are much more integrated and quickly pick up the language even,” she said.

There are also white-collar workers from India and Pakistan coming to Malaysia to work, mainly in the ICT fields.

“We are seeing a new trend in the past three years – more singletons are coming here. These are the twentysomethings that are looking to broaden their horizons and to live an expat existence for the adventures and the stretching of their minds,” she said.

And as Kuala Lumpur welcomes people from around the world, Malaysians will be further enriched by their presence.
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Monday October 9, 2006

Where Filipinos gather

On Sunday mornings behind St John’s cathedral in Kuala Lumpur, one can see a big number of Filipinos attending mass there.

Charlita Emper is one of them.

“For me, it’s better to go to church as we get blessings from God there. We work six days, so we offer that one day (Sunday) to God. For me, every Sunday before I go anywhere else, I will attend mass at St John’s,” she said.

The church’s popularity with the Filipinos has to do with its location, she explained.

After mass each Sunday, Charlita Emper (third from right) and Joyce Constantino (first from left) and their friends gather together for a meal at a nearby restaurant before heading to the city for a day of fun.
“St John’s is nearer to the city. It’s easy to go to the city from there after mass, and we go to nearby places like KLCC,” explained Emper, who has worked in Malaysia for six years as a maid.

“We also have a Filipino organisation in the city where we can take courses,” she said.

It is also not unusual to see Filipinos setting up makeshift stalls around the church to sell things such as Filipino snacks and meals, books and VCDs. Mila Olata, who has been working as a maid for 15 years, spends her entire Saturday making Filipino snacks like potu and kocinta to sell at the church on Sunday. She has been doing that for three years now.

Emper, too, has a little side business; she sells products via direct marketing. Many of her friends have side businesses like this going on, she said.

Said Filipino Joyce Constantino: “The other popular church is St Francis Xavier in Petaling Jaya.” Another area that many Filipinos frequent is Kota Raya where they can buy products from the Philippines or send money back home via Bumiputra Bank or Western Union which is open on Sunday.

“Last time, before S&M closed, a lot of us go there. Now we’ve dispersed,” said Constantino.– By Elizabeth Tai
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is graffiti art or vandalism? many european & american cities have active vibrant graffiti but not many asian cities

Adding colour to a modern city

Photos by SAM THAM

A GARDEN without flowers is not a garden; a city without graffiti is not a city. There’s no soul.

This is the view of Mahathir Masri, a graffiti artist whose creation of a character called They, in an astronaut’s suit, has graced numerous walls in the city.

So popular is They that his audience has begun to call him by the same name.

A long stretch of graffiti, promoting peace, done on the retaining wall of the Klang River.
Like most popular characters, They is beginning to create waves in the form of toys, stickers and prints on apparels.

“They looks like he’s out of this world, but is still human. They represents our youths – they may be influenced by Western culture, but are still very much Malaysians,” said the 24-year-old from Batu Pahat.

Graffiti is, to the youngsters, a means to express their opinions, but is vandalism to most others. Some call it art, but others call it an act of crime.

Mahathir has taken graffiti, or street art as he prefers to call it, a step further. He and friend Mohd Nazri Amran, 23, also from Batu Pahat, run a shop in Sungei Wang Plaza that offers customised graffiti designs and services as well as graffiti-themed merchandises.

“I guess I was only aping the Westerners at first,” said Mahathir. “I liked to draw and I was influenced by the hip-hip culture. Then, I realised that it was also an art form, so I began to study it seriously.

At T-Hop, the works of Mahathir and Mohd Nazri are legal.
“It’s also challenging.

“We used pencils to draw when we were younger, but graffiti is different,” he said. “The wall is our canvas and aerosol spray is our paintbrush.”

Mahathir said graffiti artist should know how to control the nozzle. “And, you have to be precise. We can’t get the proper spray for street art, so we can only use what we have and learn how to do it well. It’s not easy, but it’s satisfying,” he said.

It is not cheap, too. A can of spray costs RM6 to 8. A simple piece of graffiti costs the artists anything between RM50 and RM70.

Nazri loves art and he was exposed to graffiti over the Internet. There he chatted with graffiti artists who encouraged him to be brave enough to draw anywhere.

His room, house, friends’ residences and abandoned buildings in Batu Pahat became his canvases. The works captured the eyes of businessmen who commissioned him to do graffiti works. His first was to paint the backdrop for a break dance competition. He was only 16 then. Orders had not stopped since then, and he came to Kuala Lumpur to explore the art form further three years ago.

“Graffiti is something natural,” said Nazri. “Even Stone Age people drew on walls.”

Mahathir said he liked to do stickers, stencils and characters, while Nazri is good at writing. Together they make good partners. Their commissioned works adorn Sungei Wang Plaze, Berjaya Times Square and Cineleisure Damansara, among others.

Some of their works have even been featured on Graphotism, an international magazine that specialises in street art.

Their “illegal” works, created with their gang of graffiti lovers, are widely seen in the city, too. The most eye-catching piece is that done on the retaining wall of Klang River, near Pasar Seni LRT station.

“Thirteen of us did that in less than half an hour one night,” said Nazri. “We do it real fast when it is illegal.”

Their commissioned works are priced between RM1,000 to RM30,000. Even so, they still relish painting without permission on public walls.

“It is the best way to communicate with our audience,” said Mahathir. “If we put up our works in a gallery, not many see them. Moreover, galleries aren’t willing to feature unknown artists like us. Space means money to them.

“In some ways we are addicted to doing graffiti. Our works speak directly to our audience, and we get feedback fast,” he added.

The skating rink in Taman Metropolitan Batu park has been given some vibrancy.
They do these in groups, sometimes numbering 30. Their favourite spot is a park in Taman Melawati, the only wall in Kuala Lumpur that is dedicated to graffiti. Taman Metropolitan Batu Park, that houses a skating ring, is the other.

Cheras-born Shahrane Mat Zaini, 29, known among his friends as Tha-bi, is a new member to the scene. He started doing graffiti about two years ago.

“I feel an adrenaline rush whenever I do graffiti. It’s challenging, especially the ones done without permission, as you really have to do it fast,” said Shahrane, who took to the streets after being inspired by US-based graffiti artist Dave.

Shahrane ... ‘It gives me that adrenalin rush’
Shahrane has been shooed away by enforcement officers and property operators. “Once I even begged them to let me finish my work first.

“I don’t put up messages to provoke something. I like to draw characters. I want the viewers to feel relaxed.

“Yes, I guess it is vandalism and it’s not right, but it’s challenging,” he added.

Mahathir, however, does not think it is vandalism.

“If we want to vandalise we won’t bother to do it nicely. We are sincerely trying to produce pieces of art. If you find them ugly, that’s because we have not been given enough time to do it,” he explained. “We are not stealing; we are not committing crime.

“Those who chase us away don’t know art. In fact, some universities overseas are teaching street art. It’s a matter of exposure,” he added.

Nazri said he saw doing graffiti as a growing trend. “Many youngsters are into it in recent years,” he said.

The graffiti lovers have only one wish: “Give us a wall.”

Catch their works on, or on, a site dedicated to street art.
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Although I despise defacing public properties, I still think that Grafitties are public art. In many cities, grafitties appear only in undone concrete walls so I consider them as beauty.....seriously I would rather see them than a blank piece of concrete. :yes:

HOwever the many 'signatures' that we often see around town on billboards, phone booth etc are not grafitties. Those are some kind of a vandalism as they are deliberately defacing public properties. Those are not art. ;)

I would love to see more grafitties in KL :)
If one wants to paint Grafitties, it should be done at proper areas such as skate parks or gritty areas. Unless if it is an LV sponsored graffiti (the like of Nike Ads) I would welcome it :D
Monday May 14, 2007

South Koreans keen to make Malaysia home

Property Talk

A South Korean company has bought an entire condominium block for RM64mil in Malaysia!

Well, this is indeed good news for our real estate industry as it may mark the beginning of more such sales of our residential properties to foreigners following a slew of new initiatives by the Government to boost the property sector.

Hanju I & D Co Ltd through its subsidiary Hanju Savanna (M) Sdn Bhd has bought all the 204 units in Block B of the Savanna Bukit Jalil Condominium in Kuala Lumpur from Berjaya Golf Resort Bhd, a subsidiary of Berjaya Land Bhd. The deal was signed in Kuala Lumpur on May 8.

From left: Hanju I&D president Choi Jung-Ik, Datuk Robin Tan, T.K. Kim and Berjaya Land Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Francis Ng looking at the Savanna Bukit Jalil Condominiums show model
Hanju Savanna plans to sell all the 204 units to its senior citizens residing in South Korea. Its chief executive officer T.K. Kim is confident all the units could be sold within a few months. The condominium would be redesigned to suit the tastes of the Koreans.

The 5.05-acre development with four blocks will have a gross development value of RM121mil. About 80% of Block A has been sold while Block B has been sold to Hanju. Block C will be 32 high-end condo villas while Block D will have 309 units in an 18-storey block.

Kim said many of his countrymen were keen to make Malaysia their second home and, to meet this demand for Malaysian properties; Hanju is negotiating to buy Block D as well.

The en bloc sale of Block B has boosted not only market confidence but is seen as an endorsement of the Malaysia My Second Home programme that the Government and the private sector have been trying so hard to promote to foreigners.

The Savanna project will be the first Korean residential enclave in a condominium and managed by the Koreans themselves. Foreigners such as the Japanese tend to group together and there had been instances where foreign tenants relocate en bloc.

The fact that it was Hanju who approached Berjaya to buy the block and not because it had any prior business dealings with Berjaya, was all the more laudable as it showed that the Savanna project must have a certain appeal.

So why did Hanju picked Savanna Bukit Jalil?

The answer as Hanju Group president Choi Jung-Ik said was the Malaysian government's recent announcement to encourage foreign investment in the property sector.

“We are also very impressed with Berjaya's diversified businesses and are confident that this tie-up will be the beginning for both Hanju and Berjaya to work together in the future,” he added.

Of course it is not just a “marriage” of business convenience only as the Savanna project has something the Koreans love most: lots of greenery and it is next to the 400-acre Bukit Jalil Golf and Country Resort with an 18-hole golf resort, and surrounded by about 80 acres of Bukit Jalil International park.

“We are impressed with the greenery surrounding this project,” Choi said, adding that Malaysia's economic stability and multi-racial community were also factors contributing to Hanju's first investment in Malaysia.

The freehold Block A and B will feature 408 units housed in two towers of 22 floors each. They are priced from RM238,880 to RM435,880. There will be five levels of parking podium and a clubhouse, with residential units from the sixth floor up. Most of the units face the golf course with some units either facing Kuala Lumpur, the swimming pool or the stadium and Cheras.

It has full condominium facilities and multiple security checkpoints. Its infinity pool and the “glass” gymnasium overlook the golf course. The Bukit Jalil Station and Sri Petaling Station (STAR LRT) are within walking distance and it is easily accessible via major roads and highways.

Berjaya Golf Resort had successfully launched and sold all of its properties in the Bukit Jalil vicinity, namely the Greenfields Apartment, Arena Green Apartment and Green Avenue condominium.

Shopping centres like Endah parade, Mines Shopping Fair, IOI Mall, Tesco, OUG shopping complex and Pearl Point shopping centre are a few minutes drive away.

Meanwhile Berjaya Corp Bhd executive director Datuk Robin Tan said many Koreans were golf enthusiasts and Berjaya as a lifestyle group fulfilled a lot of their needs.

Tan said the Berjaya Group has 16,000 acres of land in Berjaya Hills (formerly Bukit Tinggi Resort) and about the same acreage in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor.

Both groups have hinted at forging a closer collaboration including in property development.

Hanju's businesses include tourism, property development (in Vietnam), information technology, trading and forwarding.

“We may have a Korean village in Berjaya Hills,” Tan said, adding that there were many opportunities to unlock the values of Berjaya Hills.
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good news ^^
Korean Village in Berjaya Hills!?'t wait!
Bukit Tinggi??I thought the is a Japanese village there as well...
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