Osaka Restaurant is an excellent value for money restaurant. The average price for a set meal is $10.00, now how can you top that? A set meal consists of rice, miso soup (made of fermented soybeans & salt), Japanese salad and your chosen mains. You get to choose from a whole range of yummy Japanese mains from the pork tonkatsu to the Japanese-style Chicken Barbecue. There are some set meals where the rice, soup and salad are unlimited (or bottomless, whichever you call it). Given the generous servings for the meals, you would be sure to be full. The soup is exceptional, the salad fresh and the dressing exquisite.

For the price that you will pay, do not expect a posh venue though. This is not the place for a formal dinner. The place is very homely and you really feel that you are in a restaurant in Japan when you step in. There are heaps of Japanese eating there so that will tell you that they serve authentic Japanese dishes.

The staffs are very helpful and friendly. Food is prepared fast. Tables are clean. Awesome place :)

Oishi des ne!

Osaka Restaurant is located 129 Gloucester St, Christchurch Central, New Zealand. Call (03) 377 7377 for reservations or takeaways.

Verdict: Recommended. Their motto says it all: cheap, but yummy.

Being a multilingual has heaps of advantages. You get to exercise your brain and you get to learn new stuff. Here are some common Nihongo phrases that may be useful:

Nice to meet you! Hajimemashite!

Good morning ohayou.

Hello konnichiwa.

Good evening konbanwa.

Good night O yasumi nasai.

Good bye sayonara.

I am (really) sorry Gomen nasai

Excuse me/Pardon sumimasen.

How are you? (polite) O genki desu ka.

I am fine Genki desu

Yes Hai

No iie

Thank you Arigatou

Wait a moment, please Chotto Matte kudasai

Thank you for this delicious meal! Gochiso sama deshita

I am hungry Onaka (ga) suita!

I am thirsty Nodo (ga) kawaita

How much is it? Ikura desu ka?

I missed the turtles. Growing up in the 80’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (now that is a mouthful of a name) are one of my favourite cartoon characters. It seems the trend in the movie industry today is reviving the 80’s icons. They resurrected the Transformers to the big screen (with great success if I may add); and Knight Rider, 90210, etc in the TV’s.

In this movie, they used the latest technology in CGI to create a fast and modern update of the hit TV show. The CGI is absolutely breathtaking; the fight-scenes, though non-violent (for the kiddie audiences), are amazing. The turtles still deliver a few funny lines occasionally, but overall humour was toned down a bit in this movie.

The storyline is a bit shallow, but hey, it is a movie about mutated talking turtles trained as ninjas, just how farfetched can you get?

Overall, this movie is an excellent walk through memory lane. If you are a fan during the 80’s, then this movie is an excellent treat. If you have not heard of them before, then this is your chance to check the turtles out. It is not too late to be a fan. Cowabunga dude!

Verdict: Rent it.

I chanced upon the news last night in NZ TV3 where they featured illegal horse fighting in Mindanao, Philippines. A British news correspondent posed as a tourist in order to document this barbaric “tradition” in North Cotabato. Let me tell you that there is nothing more appalling than people training gentle horses to become fierce animals just for the sake of betting and entertainment. As many as 40 horses were maimed and injured in this three-day “event”. The video showed throngs of people betting and cheering in the stands.

Horse fighting is illegal and in violation of Republic Act 8485 otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of the Philippines. The irony of the matter is that the event was organized and sanctioned by none other than the town Mayor. The video also showed a police officer right in front of the arena condoning the event. The mayor contested that horse fighting is a long-standing tradition in North Cotabato. He appealed to everyone to respect this custom and to try to understand it rather than impose their own. He also claimed that the horses’ owner cared for their horses like people in Manila who care for their Mercedes Benz.

I think this backward “tradition/custom/culture” has no place in today’s modern world. A custom that encroaches on the welfare of others, be it humans or animals, should be scrapped at once. Horses are such beautiful and peaceful animals, and for someone to corrupt nature and turn horses into ferocious beasts are disgusting. The Philippines have a dismal record in animal welfare; and I hope and pray it changes soon. We must put to an end any form of animal cruelty. The animal kingdom is here to share this planet with us humans equally. We are the custodians of God’s creations. Earth is supposed to be shared in partnership, not ownership.

I know, I know, condemn the act, not the offender. Nevertheless, does it make you angry that this is still happening and has NO signs of stopping? A civilization is judged by the way the people treat their animals.

(Photo from Sky News)

New Zealand First Party Leader Winston Peters announced their strict immigration policy stating that people allowed into the country should be reduced. As a backgrounder, Peters is an outspoken critic of the open door immigration policy of New Zealand. He is very vocal about his disdain for immigrants especially Asians. There was a time in 1999 that he blamed immigrants for Auckland’s entire problems from traffic to crime.

While I understand that we are all going through some tough economic times, and consequently, many NZ jobs are lost, immigrants will NOT compete with these jobs because to start with, most immigrants are skilled. The NZ Immigration, through the Skilled Migrants Policy, ensures that immigrants arriving in NZ have the skills that the country desperately needs.

Mr Peters suggested reducing the immigration quota from 50,000 to 10,000. Inasmuch as this is downright pointless and irresponsible, it undermines the enormous help that immigrants are contributing to the NZ economy. It is usually the immigrants that starts a business, business that generates jobs. Income tax from immigrants (which is unbelievable high) contributes a chunk on the national budget. Immigrants would rarely be involved in a crime, unless they are the victim (sad fact). Immigrants rarely use state benefits and welfares compared to locals.

I sometimes find it amusing when somebody feels threatened of immigrants because of job competition. Does he want to open a liquor shop, or maybe a dairy? On the other hand, maybe he wants to be a caregiver or even a programmer. A company hires people based on qualifications; and if people are too complacent or simply underqualified, be an immigrant or a Kiwi, then they will not make the cut. Simple as that. It has nothing to do with the passport you are holding.

It is a good thing that the incumbent Prime Minister, Helen Clark said that Mr. Peter’s idea is not sensible. In a small population nation such as New Zealand, immigrants play a huge role in the advancement of the economy. Stand proud immigrants.

With the New Zealand 2008 elections coming, I see an abundance of promises from politicians: from the shocking to the absurd.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia called for the abolition of the dole and subsequent replacement with government-subsidised jobs. A dole (not related to a pineapple business) is cash received from the government if you are unable to work for some reason. While I agree from her statement “I don't think it is healthy for the spirit of our people, to be getting money for doing nothing”, I believe the total removal of dole will contribute to society collapse.

Doles, as with any other welfare benefits received for whatever reason, are susceptible to abuse. While this is inevitable, it is undeniable that doles help many people, even deserving ones. Doles help bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Doles prevent slums like in third world countries from appearing.

However, as a taxpayer, I find it sad and at the most disturbing to see and hear able-bodied people receiving doles for years. There has been a rampant dependence on handouts that people are becoming lazy. I think the best course of action is to offer the government-subsidised jobs so that people can figure out that they can earn more from wages rather than doles.

This film is inspired by the early life of famed author Jane Austen, who has written exceptional novels like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. While much of the material is based on real events, there are plenty of assumptions made, especially on the relationship between Jane Austen and Thomas Lefroy. The film attempts to portray what Jane Austen may have gone through when she was in her 20’s; and provide probable cause and inspiration for her novels.

Anne Hathaway was casted as Jane and James McAvoy as Thomas Lefroy. I find it odd that they chose an American actress for the part, Keira Knightly may have done a better job. However, I acknowledge Anne Hathaway’s effort in speaking her part in a British accent.

I find the story vey slow in the beginning, almost bordering on boredom, but it will pick up the pace after 30 minutes of the film. You may be tempted to walk out of the DVD, but if you do sit through it until the end, you will be awarded with a rich story, exceptional script, outstanding acting and a profound respect for the great author that was Jane Austen.

A must see for everyone interested in an intelligent film especially aspiring writers.

Verdict: Rent it.

A recent article I saw about racism in the UK made me write again. As a backgrounder, a BBC Comedy “Harry and Paul” made a “racist” and degrading portrayal of a Filipina house cleaner (maid). You can read the whole news here: This is my two cents with regard to this issue, while I do not condone that BBC episode; I think this is an excellent opportunity to examine ourselves with regard to racism.

Racism is aptly defined as “the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races”. Let us alter that definition a bit and replace the word “race” with “skin colour”. Now does that ring a bell? Why are skin-whitening creams and beauty whatnots very popular in the Philippines? Why are celebrities and popular politicians fair-skinned? Why do some Pinoys open an umbrella on a sunny day? Why do some Pinoys wear long pants and long sleeve shirts in the beach? Is fair skin more superior to a dark skin?

Moving away from the skin colour, let us talk about speech accents. Why is having a provincial accent a laughable matter in Philippine TV shows, movies or afternoon variety shows? Then again, we are awestruck when we hear a British accent or an American accent. How one accent is better than another is eluding me.
Then there is religion. Why is a newspaper headline will read “Tatlong Muslim Nang-Holdap ng Bangko” (Three Muslims Rob a Bank), but you will never see “Isang Kristiano Namaril sa Manila” (A Christian on a Gun Rampage in Manila) or “Isang Born Again, Sinaksak ang Kaibigan”. No wonder we fear Arabs, the media fuels the fear with dodgy journalism. It is sad to know that Arabs or Muslims are sometimes labelled as terrorists just because of the way they dress.

Why is it that a foreigner in the Philippines gets a first class treatment in establishments? I have yet to find another country like the Philippines where a citizen is second-class to a fair-skinned visitor. While this can be attributed to the Pinoy’s enormous sense of hospitality but I fear it has become too much.

While we are quick to react to foreigners who wronged us, I think it is also worth looking at the wrongs that have been happening right under our noses. Rampant racism or any form of stereotyping is prevalent in the Philippines. This is a very sensitive and touchy topic. While this article may strike a bad chord with others, I only hope that this article inspires everyone to do a little soul searching:

To solve a problem, it is essential to recognise that there IS a problem. While there is nothing wrong by being angry at the tasteless UK show, it is also meriting that we know how to exorcise ourselves with any forms of racism. Learn as much as you can about other cultures. The world is very diverse; a hodgepodge of cultures, that is very interesting to learn. The more you know about other cultures, the less likely for racism to occur. Respect others. Realize that some cultures may be sensitive to topics that may be mundane to you. Racism is a learned behaviour; ergo it can be unlearned. Start in your homes; raise a family that is responsible and tolerant. Educate your children with the concept of equality.

In the end, there is only one race, the human race.

A lot can be heard and read about the US financial crisis; as huge news it is, how exactly will it affect the Juan dela Cruz’s of New Zealand? To get a firmer understanding of the situation, we begin where it all started. The US government enacted laws where it became very easy for people to buy houses that they couldn’t afford with mortgages that are too steep for their financial capabilities. It was a precarious balance for a while because heaps of houses are constructed to offset the increased demand. However, very soon the bubble was punctured when the banks realised that people really cannot pay their mortgages. Foreclosures became common, bankruptcies are aplenty, businesses are loosing money, and unemployment rose dramatically; on top of the highly controversial cost of the Iraq War ($600 Billion and still going up). The factors above (plus a whole lot more: politics, greed, irresponsibility, dodgy policies etc.) took a toll on the US economy.

Okay, we do not live in the US, in fact we are on the opposite side of the globe, what does it mean to the Pinoys down under? For starters, US have a large population, immense military strength, and undeniable influence in international influence. An economic crisis would send ripples of consequences to the rest of the world, in particular the decrease of economic aids from the US to the developing countries.

It is a known fact that China manufactures almost everything, and a decreased demand from a large nation like the US would be detrimental to the growing economy of China. Again, we do not live in China, so what does it mean to us? Even if the factories are in China, they still import raw materials from overseas.

One notable New Zealand export is wool. A decrease in demand from China will hurt the small farmers and small wool businesses, which in turn will affect the NZ economy. New Zealand officially is under a recession. A recession is defined as a “state of the economy declines; a widespread decline in the GDP and employment and trade lasting from six months to a year”. Unfortunately for us though. it is just starting. Food and oil prices may continue to rise, we may see more businesses downsizing, the NZ dollar exchange rate may slid farther down.

In the midst of all these sad circumstances, is there hope? There definitely is hope. A bailout plan was enacted to help the ailing US economy. Let us just hope that they are wiser now. After the NZ elections on November, the government can now focus on policies that will benefit the economy. The global uncertainties also brought a renewed faith in God, when the world has become very materialistic.

This dark storm is just but a phase in our lives. Pinoys are known to be very adaptive to any circumstances that fate will throw. Empower yourselves with WISE financial advises. Read more, and be updated with the current news and events. Study and learn new skills. Save. Stop the squabbling and be united for a change. Lastly pray often.

Arjee Bhajee is one of the best Indian restaurants in New Zealand. They offer casual dining of the most scrumptious curries and delectable rice. True you can find an Indian food store in all mall food courts and numerous locations throughout New Zealand, but trust me when I say that this is different.

Prepare to be heartily filled because there is a good deal of servings for each dish plus all the rice you can eat (eat-all-you-kanin). We ordered Calcutta Fish (Fillets of gurnard spice rubbed with lemon juice and garlic ginger, and seared with mustard seed, curry leaves and coconut cream) for $16.00 and two Garlic Naan breads for $3.50 each. Believe me when I say this, but this is the best curry dish that I have the pleasure of tasting. All the ingredients blended perfectly I must say, and I just cannot get enough. The flavor is very rich but not very spicy.

The Naan bread compliments the dish and the rice. The bread is very soft and tasty, perfect for dipping to the yummy curry sauce.

However if you still have separation issues with the ever famous Butter Chicken then you must order Chicken Makhani for $15.50. Be forewarned though that after tasting the Chicken Makhani you might develop a memory lapse for the food court mall-type Butter Chicken.

You can check out the other dishes in their menu, just watch the spicy level if you are not into very spicy foods. Lamb Bhutuwa for $15.50 is awesome and you can check out Bhajees (crispy onion and spinach fritters) for $7.00. One thing to note though is that I am not a big fan of the Narnis, an Indian souvlaki.

Service is very fast and very friendly. Ambience feels very casual but not cheap. Tables are spacious and ideal for group dinners. Parking is available on both sides of Riccarton Road or Bartlett Street.

If you are a fan of Indian dishes then you definitely MUST try this restaurant. If you are a Filipino and you miss the Pinoy dishes with gata then you must order the Calcutta Fish.

Arjee Bhajee is located at 13C Riccarton Road ((Hagley Park end of Riccarton Road), Christchurch, New Zealand. Call (03) 365 6633 for reservations or takeaways.

If you are closer to the City Centre, then they have a branch at 300 Colombo Street. Call (03) 337 0050 for reservations or takeaways.

Verdict: Recommended.

New Zealand is famous for creating the blockbuster movies Lord of the Rings Trilogy. There are however, more movies set and filmed in NZ that are very notable and with substance. One such noteworthy film is Her Majesty.

This is a charming fictional story based upon the actual visit of Queen Elizabeth II to New Zealand in 1953. It features a simple tale of a girl, a Maori and the Queen. The plot may be elementary but it tackles very deep issues like racial discrimination, injustice, and ignorance. It is a feel-good movie with lots of plot twists and lessons to learn along the way.

The characters are well defined but the acting is a bit stiff, except for Vicky Haughton playing as Hira Mata. Cinematography is awesome; it captures the very early New Zealand environment.
This is different from the common Hollywood films that focus on special effects, violence and dysfunctional behaviours. This is a film of characters that you can identify with, smart dialogues and imaginative plot twists.

Verdict: A must watch for all ages. If you are in NZ or planning to go to NZ, this film gives you a peek at what it is like in NZ 50 years ago.
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