• Travel

    Mem­o­ries of Japan

    7 July 2014

    Bits and pieces of Japan.

    This morn­ing I woke with an incred­i­ble desire to trav­el so I fig­ured I should post about my mem­o­ries of my most recent trip to Japan back in Novem­ber 2013. I’ve actu­al­ly blogged about this already but have delet­ed the post so some pho­tos will look famil­iar. There are many, many details of this trip that have escaped my mind but I will try my best to recall as much as I can.

    After the HSC, our fam­i­ly went on an exhaust­ing 13 hour flight to Japan (includ­ing a stop in Hong Kong in between because there was no direct flight to Osa­ka). We need­ed to be in Shin­saibashi but had trou­ble get­ting there because most shut­tles had end­ed their ser­vices for the day. It was pan­ick­ing because we couldn’t speak Japan­ese and had no idea where we were going to do since taxis were extreme­ly expen­sive con­sid­er­ing the dis­tance from the air­port to the hotel, but we end­ed up in our hotel and the first thing I noticed was the sign say­ing ‘free wifi’. It was basi­cal­ly the high­light of my day (my day only con­sist­ed of two plane trips and pan­ic at the air­port). The sec­ond thing I noticed was the amount of but­tons on the toi­let. We didn’t even notice the flush but­ton was on the side of the sink because we thought one of the but­tons on the toi­let was the flush.

    Think­ing back, the most mem­o­rable thing was the amount of bicy­cles in the streets. Most peo­ple rode bicy­cles to work and could text with one hand whilst hold­ing the han­dle with anoth­er. The streets were so qui­et and there was lit­er­al­ly no one talk­ing with a nor­mal speak­ing voice. Every­thing was whis­pered and mut­tered; even the pedes­tri­an cross­ings were silent, unlike the ones in Hong Kong where it makes an irri­tat­ing buzzing beep. The skies were also one of the most appre­cia­ble things (me being a lover of clouds and just the sky in gen­er­al) the clouds had a cot­ton can­dy appear­ance and it was not like any­thing I’ve seen before. Basi­cal­ly, what I’m say­ing is my trip to Japan can be sum­marised by the words: bicy­cles, qui­et, polite, clean, clouds.

    At first, the train sta­tions had us mis­er­ably lost (espe­cial­ly the map where there were dif­fer­ent lines to head to dif­fer­ent sub­urbs and also hav­ing to dis­tin­guish between the nor­mal trains with the JR trains and all that fuss which to this day I am still absolute­ly and hope­less­ly clue­less about). The good thing is that there was an offi­cer stand­ing at the tick­et booth to help out for­eign­ers. Good thing they spoke a lit­tle bit of Eng­lish. It’s kind of hard to find some­one who under­stands what you’re ask­ing them in Eng­lish.

    Shop­ping was the main agen­da for us (most­ly me, embar­rass­ing­ly). I remem­ber spend­ing one whole day in Shin­saibashi wan­der­ing around and look­ing at dif­fer­ent shops. One of them was an elec­tron­ics store which was filled with all kinds of cam­eras, rang­ing from dig­i­tal to film. I pur­chased a new polaroid there. Need­less to say, the cus­tomer ser­vice in Japan is top notch. It almost makes me feel uncom­fort­able to walk into a shop because there is no way you can walk into a shop with­out a staff mem­ber bow­ing down and wel­com­ing you into their shop. All of them start talk­ing to you in Japan­ese and it takes them a moment to realise you can’t speak it because you just stare at them blankly and go “uh… Hai?” My mum slipped a lit­tle “ichiban” and “ari­ga­tou” every now and then, ter­ri­bly though. Well, at least she tried.

    All of these frag­ment­ed recounts of our trip makes me want to trav­el again. I cer­tain­ly do remem­ber the exhaus­tion and frus­tra­tion of wan­der­ing around aim­less­ly on some days but it weighs out with every­thing else that it brings. The expe­ri­ence and insight into a new com­mu­ni­ty grants me new out­looks on life and how dif­fer­ent cul­tures fit togeth­er like puz­zle pieces. I think vis­it­ing anoth­er coun­try is like read­ing a book, gain­ing insight of the dif­fer­ent inspi­ra­tions that are attached to the place itself and are so fun­da­men­tal in con­tribut­ing to what the place has become. Wan­der­lust is some­thing I’ve nev­er not felt and I wish there was some­thing to rekin­dle that sense of sat­is­fac­tion of going some­where new and being awed by the amount of new things that await to unfold before my eyes.