lost-o filipino in nihongo

June 8, 2013 § 4 Comments

Odaiba! <this is a private joke with JM and Tokyo’s replica of the Statue of Liberty>

I was physically, mentally and emotionally not ready to go on this trip.  My mom bought our tickets last February in a travel expo, but due to so many turn of events, I ended up having to go on this trip by myself, straight from the hospital.  Those events will have to wait for a different post until I sort them all out.  But before I forget how memorable this trip was, I’ll write this now. :)  I will try my best to keep the details minimal as I believe a trip to Japan is not complete without getting lost and confused and figuring out all the maps by yourself.  I hope I can go back here with someone next time! But very sore feet aside, this was one of my best trips ever – albeit alone.  I owe this all to my mom who forced me to make time for this trip.  There were so many moments that I wished I was with her, pushing her on a wheel chair just so that she could have seen it too. :( But she’ll get the chance to go here too in the future, God-willing! :)

Some of the things I did in Japan:

1.  pass the immigration

As I stood in the Philippine immigration counter, I found myself speechless when the officer asked me in what school I was a teacher in.  I was technically resigned already, and I thought against writing “jobless” as that might have had more negative repurcussions.  I said “UP Diliman” – and to my regret the officer asked if I had a travel permit, so I proceeded to explain I had just resigned yesterday and thank God she didn’t make me explain any further after a few grimaces.  In the future forms, I decided to write down “student” instead to cut the questions.  I didn’t have any other IDs aside from my passport at that time and fortunately I didn’t have any trouble in entering Japan either.  I’m unprepared and lucky like that.

2.  figure out the train system

The train system in Japan is extensive, efficient and unfortunately in Japanese.  Okay, that was a semi-joke. haha.  Some stations had English translations of the maps, but really you had to be mentally prepared to figure out all the context clues in order to go somewhere, especially when you end up in some obscure station where everything is in Japanese.  In general, do not expect Japanese people to speak English.  They can probably understand a bit of what you say, but they will continue to explain everything in Japanese all the same.  So when asking directions, always show a map and follow their fingers because unless you understand Japanese, you won’t be able to use anything they say.  Aside from that, you had to be ready to get lost and for a lot of walking.  Train stations, especially the main ones, are very big (and a lot of them surpassed our very own airport).  May I also add that you should prepare lots of money to go around.  Riding to the next station can cost you at least 60 pesos on a JR line and 100 pesos on the subway.

3.  walk my feet to death

I had never been this tired from so much walking.  My feet are so sore that I can’t even wiggle or feel my toes in my right foot anymore.  With all the walking that I did (add to that – alone) in this trip, I was literally running a pounding headache and fever by my 4th day.  Good thing my dad forced me to bring paracetamol because aside from not being able to enjoy the rest of my trip if I got sick, I couldn’t risk getting isolated for possible swine flu or whatever at the airport.  Anyway, it’s all worth it because I got to go around Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo and Yokohama in 6 days.  Even without the cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji, everything else made up for it.

4. travel on a Japanese night bus

When I was first planning this trip, of course I had to consider visiting JM.  But the thing was, Osaka was far from Yokohama – which was not really a problem with the Shinkansen (bullet train) if it weren’t that expensive.  The round-trip fare would be around 14,000 pesos.  There was another option fortunately, but it would mean riding the night bus – where things were more or less in Japanese.  The bus trip costs 4000 pesos.  I had a little trouble with the booking because all their documents were in kanji and I had no idea why they refused to just use my reservation number as reference.  During my bus ride back to Osaka, aside from almost being late because JM slept on me from exhaustion the entire day we spent walking, they almost didn’t allow me on the bus because they couldn’t find my name.  But aside from that, the night bus was quite an experience and the best part was that they had an electric outlet beside every seat!

5.  sleep in the street

Jm and I’s main itinerary was to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market and witness the famous Tuna Auction.  The tuna auction itself was not that memorable (I mean it was an auction for large tuna, and nothing else), but the entire experience of doing it is probably my best experience in Japan.  The Tsukiji Fish market only accepts 120 tourists every day to witness the auction because the market is a very dangerous place and I mean it.  Trucks drive around in high speed and again, if ever anyone warns you for hazards, it will be in Japanese and you will not understand it.  So to be able to make it to that 120 quota, you had to go to the market at around 4:00am.  Since JM lives in Yokohama and because of the train operating hours, we had to reach the last train trips to Tsukiji.  Everything was going smoothly until we missed the last train trip.  Suddenly, we were stuck in some station kilometers away from Tsukiji. With no other option, we had to “go the distance”, with throbbing feet and all.  Armed with a bag of edamame and a pack of dried mangoes, we were walking around Tokyo by midnight.  We walked for about an hour and by the time we found the place, it was too far from the subway station that we had no choice but to sleep on the street.  There was a nearby park and JM brought some sort of plastic mat, but the problem was it was windy and cold and awkward and weird to sleep in the street.  BUT in the name of tuna, yes we slept in the street like homeless people – and I realize now that I am so blessed to have my own bed.  We found a spot somewhere and covered ourselves with the mat.  It was really windy and cold but having walked miles with no sleep, we managed to sleep for about half an hour in that condition.  After 2 hours, we decided we couldn’t take it anymore so we went to a nearby Yoshinoya branch and ate for about an hour.  You might be wondering why we didn’t do this in the first place, but it’s because we were hoping we wouldn’t ruin our appetite for sushi that day and because people spent an average of 15 minutes in places like Yoshinoya.  That time was memorable though because JM and I finally had the chance to have a serious conversation about things that I know strengthened our friendship.  It was so serious that it was downright funny finding ourselves releasing long-hidden suppressed emotions and feelings to each other in the middle of the tuna auction waiting room. haha. Anyway, we successfully made it to around number 50 (we overstayed in Yoshinoya) when we arrived there at around 4:00am.  So yes, the sleep-in-the-street decision was not an overkill.

6. sleep in the train

After going around Tsukiji Market, JM and I were just dead tired and sleepy, but the irony was we had the entire day ahead.  That was at around 7am.  We were literally dragging our feet with our heads floating with no idea what to do next.  Our first idea was to catch a free bus ride at Tokyo and sleep on the open upper deck.  That would have been great, until we went to the bus station indicated on the map and found out that the bus doesn’t pass that route until 3 hours later.  We were almost hopeless then and going to sleep on the bus stop bench already until JM suggested we could sleep in the train! haha. You didn’t have to exit the the station to get a train going the other way around so we could take an entire trip going somewhere, and back…while sleeping! We spent an hour on the Chiyoda Line (back and fourth) and just slept.  :)) Of course we exited at a nearby station to keep the fee minimal.  That was the cheapest sleeping place ever…well next to the free streets.  But the important thing was it was warm and soft.

7.  ride a bike around like a true Japanese

The main mode of transportation around Japan, aside from the train, is the bicycle.  People on bikes are considered pedestrians, which means you had to be always alert for people on bikes while walking.  You’re not a true Japanese if you can’t ride a bike.  But aside from being ages since I rode a bike, I had reservations on borrowing one because of safety issues – I could either hit a person, hit a car, or get hit by a car. haha.  But the fact that the hotel I stayed in offered free bike rentals, it was too good an experience to pass off.  It was good that I had walked around the entire area already during my first day so that I didn’t need a map anymore if I rode the bike to Kuromon Market.  There was no way I was going home without a peach, as I promised my mom.  And the only place I know where they sold that was in that market.  It was around 4 km away from the hotel so I had a lot of room for embarrassing breaks and weird maneuvering – which was practice.  By the time I was on my way back, I had enough courage to explore the side streets to look for people-less streets.  Yes that entire ride-a-bike might have been a small fear, but I conquered it! \:D/

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The rest of the story is history, and here are some bits of it, in photos. These barely capture the moments, but if you plan on going to Japan, I’m sure you’ll be able to create great ones yourself. :)  Thank you to my friend, JM, who toured me around Tokyo for 1 day.  This trip would not have been as great at was, if not for that day.  Kahit hindi ka sentimental JM, and I will always struggle to understand that, I hope you enjoyed that day as much as I did. :)  From all the places I visited, I personally recommend the Mino-o Park in Osaka, the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, the Deer Park in Nara, Aki-oka Artisan in Tokyo, the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo and the Asakusa district in Tokyo. :)

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I started my trip at Mino-o Park (Osaka), which was a natural forest park. What was interesting was that I saw people wearing their coat and ties walking up the 30-minute path to the waterfall.

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An old couple covers themselves from the drizzle

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The path is lined with maple trees.

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It was suggested in travel sites to try and eat these maple-leaf tempura along the way to Mino-o Park, but it didn’t really taste anything aside from fried tempura batter. 

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Osaka Castle Park in…Osaka. :p

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takoyaki :p~

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Namba Area – shoppers’ paradise on a Sunday. The place was literally overflowing with people.

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Kuromon Market in Namba

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Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

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Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavillion) in Kyoto

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geisha in the Higashiyama District in Kyoto

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Todaji Temple in Nara where you could see a large wooden statue of Buddha with diamond in his eyelids to make the eyes look real.

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Japanese women are very stylish.  See this picture for example in the Deer Park in Nara.  Walking here is no joke, take note.

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The ferris wheel in the Tempozan Bay Area in Osaka. The atmosphere here feels like you’re in San Francisco.

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Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

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Hachiko’s statue at the Shibuya Station

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The shopping street leading to the Sensoji Temple at the Asakusa District in Tokyo features Edo period inspired things.  

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you must eat this when you go here…but I don’t know what it’s called.

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The path leading to the Meiji Jingu Shrine (in honor of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken) in Tokyo – which was amazingly man-made during the 1920s and now looks like a natural forest.

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My feet were so painful by this time that I found so much relief just sitting in front of the Meiji Jingu Shrine and watching people come and go in the cool morning.

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With Jay, Vince & JM at a popular ramen house in Yokohama. :)

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rode the Cosmo Clock with JM :) – my childish whim

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This was at the point we got left by the train and we we’re walking our way to Tsukiji.

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Homeless and happy – and tired and sleepy. :))

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finally, we’re on the right direction!

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The yellow-fin and the blue-fin group! Yellow goes first yay! :D

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5:30am at the Tuna Auction in the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

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This was at Daiwa Zushi, one of the popular sushi restaurants right at the Tsukiji Market.  The 5 pieces of sushi I ate cost me 1300 pesos. Hmm, sige na nga, medyo worth it since the fish was “fresh”.

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This wonderful, wonderful place was annoyingly misplaced in the map.  JM and I spent more than 30 minutes walking to look for this place in the Akihabara District , and IT WAS WORTH IT! :D Best place ever, must visit! It features wonderful crafts where the artists were there themselves.

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Cameras were forbidden in the Aki-oka Artisan, but since we bought some of these amazing postcards (because it was the only thing we could afford), I got a chance to take a picture! This is just one of the countless cool things you can find here.

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So cold noodles are actually good. :p~

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JM and I were supposed to go to the National Museum of Emerging Science & Engineering – until we saw bicycles for rent which preoccupied us like crazy.  We asked people to teach us how to operate the station, but to no avail. We got so tired looking for another bicycle rental station that we just ended up skipping the museum and waiting for the sunset to see the Tokyo skyline.

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me & jm with the life-size gundam

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I’m freeee! :p

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Rainbow Bridge in Palette Town

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Thanks for touring me in Daiba, JM! :)


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Japanese people probably never go thirsty because vendo machines are everywhere.

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me and Hotel Mikado’s Bike No. 8’s reflection; I got a bit sunburned from biking because of my inability to balance the bike while holding an umbrella unlike some Japanese I saw.

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post-script: I spent around 30,000 pesos in this trip (I didn’t go on a shopping spree at this rate).  This figure does not include the round-trip fare, which my mom got at a promo rate of around 14,000 pesos. I spent 8 days in Japan, or more like 6 full days because 2 were for travelling. Have your visa processed by an agency (around 1500 pesos).  And if you’re going to tour Osaka, the all-day subway pass is worth it if you’re wondering.  It will save you hundreds, if not a few thousands.

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3×5 – John Mayer

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