Sunday, May 23, 2010

A 30 metres high lifetime ride....

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

How much you are willing to spend for a lifetime experience?

Last Saturday, 21 Malaysian Students from Muroran Institute of Technology (MIT) went for a one-day trip to the famous Lake Toya. It was a fine day, and the weather was clear. Arrived at the lake after almost an hour journey from Muroran. On some parts of the bank of the lake, there were some locals doing some business, Lake Toya tour packages with speedboats or paddle-boats. For lovers, a kayak ride or a swan-shape paddle boat would be a perfect choice. 4 people can board the paddle boat at a time. It was very tired to paddle the boat around. I panted a lot !

Speedboat, Mount Usu and Lake Toya

For those who loves some speed and thrill, a 30 minutes ride of a speedboat is worthy. up to almost 14 people can ride it at a time. The maximum speed....70km/h. The ride costs 1500 yen per person, thanks to our status as a foreign student, we paid 1000 yen only. That's the price you'll get when you come in group and most importantly, you can speak their language.

The next stop is a site of a rural village situated on the foothills of Mount Usu. The site overlooks the Lake Toya. Some of the ruins can still be seen today. Mount Usu is the most well-known and made the headlines as recently as 2000, when it erupted and destroyed roads and buildings. Careful scientific monitoring of the region meant that everybody was evacuated long before anything too serious happened. There's an off-limit area for visitors visiting that place. Eager to feel how hot the steam at the volcanic site which can be seen blowing out of from some parts of ground there, I went in to take a closer look. Indeed it is hot ! Almost the same feeling when you opened a pressurized cooker and feel the steam with your bare hands. Even the ground around the steam chamber is warm.

The volcanic hot steam coming out from the ground.

After spending almost an hour and a half there, the trip was resumed. This time, a hunt for a famous Hokkaido-style ice-cream shop near the Lake Toya. Fresh milk processed into variety of cheeses and other dairy products. Unfortunately, I can't show you how the ice-cream looks. Next time maybe. Around the shop is an open area with a mini zoo. There's a rabbit cage with lots of rabbits inside and a small stable with two ponies. At the same area, slightly away from the shop is a landing pad for a hot air balloon. I was so excited upon seeing the balloon. It was so huge and that was my first time watching it live. We then had a deal with the operator. A normal fare for a 30 minutes ride is 1500 yen. The moment we say we are from Malaysia, and studying in MIT, she gave us a better deal. 1000 yen per person. That's a good thing when you know how to speak their language. We took turn and two of my friends and I took the first ride. The gondola or wicker basket which carries the pilot and passengers can only takes a total of five adult men.

The hot air balloon we rode, it's not me up there.

The day was slightly windy. The take-off part is the most difficult part as the pilot needs to maintain the balance of the balloon in a windy day. After 5 minutes, finally the balloon floated safely and we began to 'fly' further from the ground. The pilot brought us 30 meters high and we enjoyed spectacular view from above. At the same time I felt relieved. My patience finally paid. Actually when I was in Turkey, I was thinking to take the famous hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. But when I was told the ride would cost me 120 Euros, I had to forget about it. Too costly for a student I think. Eventually, I ride the balloon but with cheaper price. Although it's a 30 minutes ride, it really worth the price. For me, it's a lifetime experience I would say. So when you're still young, go explore the world and gain as many as possible experience you can. There are many things to learn from the world outside. 

Of course, the balloon and the unforgettable ride itself was perfect for my camera lens. Perhaps, if I have a chance, a ride in a helicopter will be next, though my real dream is to sit on a Weapon Systems Officer of a real fighter aircraft......still not giving up on my dream yet !

Friday, May 14, 2010

Muroran Mosque (Hokkaido), joining the list of mosques in Japan

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

First debut
Year 2010 marks a significant year for Muslims in Muroran, a city in the second largest prefecture in Japan. Muroran city was located near Tomakomai city, a city which is famous for it's natural onsen (Japanese style hot-spring) in Japan. Muroran is a port city, both industrial and agricultural purposes. One of the significant symbol in Muroran is the Oohashi bridge (literally translated: Swan Bridge), the largest suspension bridge in eastern Japan. This year, another attraction especially for Muslim who is visiting Hokkaido makes it's first debut. After the Sapporo Mosque and the Otaru Mosque, Muroran is proud to announce the third mosque in Hokkaido, the Muroran Mosque.

The Idea
The Muroran Mosque, is currently under the administration of Muslim in Muroran group, a group consist of students from the Muroran Institute of Technology (室蘭工業大学). As of April 2010, the Muslim community in Muroran has 39 people, mainly students. The mosque can cater up to 40 people in a single congregation. For the time being, only men can use the mosque. The idea to get a mosque was founded from since last year. At that time, we used a kaikan (a gathering hall) at one the student's residents in the vicinity of the university. Since the gathering hall was being used for other functions other than the congregation, we decided to look for another place with sole function as a mosque and a Muslim-only gathering area, the search began at late November 2009. At first, a two-storey house was proposed to be use as a temporary mosque. Since the landlord only rents it for two years contract plus a high rental rate, the search continued. The search ended when one of the student found a vacant shop-house, considered perfect to be the mosque.

The mosque's location is very adjacent to the university, which makes it easier for students to perform the Zohor, Asar and Jumaat(Friday) prayer in congregation. Most of the students can reach the mosque by a 10 minutes walk from their houses at farthest. It also located near to the convenience store (7-Eleven) and Palette, a daily convenience store which caters the needs of the students in Muroran Inst. of Technology. It's also reachable by cars and local buses.

Interior of the mosque (front door)

Interior of the mosque (kitchen area and washroom)

To bear the maintenance cost of the mosque, including rent, water and electricity, a fixed sum of 2000 yen is being collected from each Muslim brothers per month. In addition, the mosque are currently providing Halal food supplied from the main Halal food supplier in Japan, Baticrom store. For each item, an extra of 20 yen will be added to the purchased item and goes directly to the mosque's fund.

Besides the friday prayer, for the time being, we are doing simple activities, such as the Tadarus (Recitation) of Al-Quran on Saturday, between Maghrib and Isha'. After that, we will hold a feast among Muslim brothers here and sometimes with some of our Japanese friends. Another activity is the Hafazan (Memorizing) of Juz' Amma on Sunday at the same time.

Getting along with the Japanese people while enjoying Egyptian food

Getting there
The mosque is easily reachable by car and local bus. To get here by car (assuming you're from Sapporo), get to the Highway route 36 and follow the sign to Muroran Inst. of Technology. Upon reaching the main gate of the University, drive downhill until you see a convenience store (7-Eleven) at an intersection. Turn left and you'll see a row of shop-houses. The mosque is in the middle. As for parking area, you may park your car at a parking area available just next to the shop-houses. The area is large to accommodate up to 15 cars.

If you're coming by bus (assume from the Higashi Muroran railway station), take a No.77 or 6 green bus (Donan bus) bound for 室工大 (Muroran Inst. of Technology) and get off at 郵便局前 (in front of the Japan Post Office) bus-stop. From the bus-stop, walk North against the flow of traffic (you should be on the right side of the road). The bus fare would be 240 yen and takes about 20 minutes ride from the Higashi Muroran station.

View 1(Click to enlarge)

View 2 (Click to enlarge)

Any official matters or businesses can be made through the address provided.

(050-0072), Hokkaido, Muroran-shi, Takasago-cho, 5 cho-me, 18-6-1F

We welcome any visit from the Jamaah Tabligh in Japan or any individuals who wish to get more information about Islam and Muslim in Japan.