It’s 2019, three years since my first trip to Japan. I never realized I had a happy place until I actually experienced separation anxiety when I flew back. I always thought that these “happy places” were abstract constructs. It didn’t matter where I was or what state I was in. The happy place was always a video game in some form. In my room. On my phone. But I never thought it to be a place.
And it’s weird, really. I enjoy the travel. The journey does excite me but the contrast of being in a place that is more foreign planet than country makes it so much interesting. In 2006 when I was writing for another tech publication, the editors would joke around to having “news” from “Planet Japan” because everything was just so over the top. I mean, the mere Japanese toilet that comes with background music to hide your farts were a pragmatic work of art.
So that was it. A foreign place with a language I cannot understand and yet I can easily make my way around town with these unlimited JR bus passes and order food without talking to anybody thanks to push button menus in almost every modern restaurant. I recommend Japan to anyone that wants something new. There’s wanderlust in the city where shops sleep at 7PM and the salarymen make their drunken shuffle to the karaoke. Where two-year-olds accompany each other to school without the help of grown ups because they know they can trust strangers. Where there are robots just because.
In 2016 I visited Tokyo for the first time. The streets of Ginza, Japanese whiskey, BIC Camera, Izakaya, Don Q. This opened my eyes to text book Japan.
Later than same year we went to Osaka and from there made our way to Kyoto (for the market), Narra (for the deer), and Kobe (for the beef). This trip expanded my perspective of how easy it is to get around a country. That you can cram 10 destinations in one day with efficient public transport.
snow is like dirt, but cleaner
Then early this month — first quarter of 2019 found me on an impromptu trip to Hokkaido for work. I was researching Hokkaido, as this tropical body has never felt snow when I got a call from a friend, “hey we’re sending you to Japan.” Speechless, my phone kept buzzing — it was a series of messages from another colleague, “Go to Japan.” Making sure that there were no hidden cameras around my office (as this may have been an elaborate prank by psychics), I said,
“OK but I should tell my boss.”
“Hi boss, I’m supposed to go to Ja —“
“We know. Enjoy! It’s minus 20 so suit up.”
And that was it.
I’ve written about my Hokkaido trip for the Manila Bulletin so you can read that. A huge thanks to Japan Airlines for sponsoring this trip. #FlyJAL #GetMoreJapan