June 24-28, 2013
I woke up early perhaps because I was excited that we are finally flying to Fukuoka Prefecture and spend the next 3 days there for our local program. Fukuoka Prefecture can be found in the Kyushu Island, it faces the Korean Peninsula, and is nearer to the Philippines compared to the other areas of Japan.
I am now filled with so many expectations on how our trip and stay will go, but above everything else, I am excited about meeting my host family and have dinner with them.
After checking out from Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel, we proceeded to Tokyo’s other airport, Haneda Airport.
I was told that Japan airports are very strict, indeed Haneda Airport was. For instance, during the inspection of carry-on baggage, we even had to bring out our laptops. One ironic thing was that they allowed our umbrellas to be placed in the hand carry baggage, which is usually not the case in the Philippines.
We flew with ANA, Japan’s other flagship carrier and the trip was more or less 2 hours. It was smooth for the most of the flight; except that I had some friends who were experiencing motion discomfort.
Fukuoka is a humble prefecture that boasts its different advanced architectures and industries. You could say that people are so laid back except of course in the downtown area of Hakata or Tenjin where business establishments were usually situated.
With their rich culture, the JICE made it a point that our group could experience some of the things that make the Fukuoka culture. We went to this Opera-like house, which they call as the Noh and Kyogen Theater. It was a humbling experience to have thought first-hand by the different masters of the Noh Play. I must say, that it was very difficult to perfect and to master such form of art thus you will really need great dose of devotion, patience, and perseverance for your to perfect your craft.
We also had a traditional Japanese lunch in Fukuoka where Kimono-wearing women served us sumptuous Japanese cuisines. I liked the fact that they are really very welcoming and very accommodating.
The first day in Fukuoka was indeed full of surprises I least expected. Surprises from small things such as finding out that our hotel is very near to Hakata Station, and we can easily roam around Hakata or to big surprises about the diversity of cultures, customs and traditions of Japan. While I am writing this, it made me realize that we are very lucky, although lucky is an understatement. Lucky because we got to visit this place which is usually not included in the itinerary of tourists wanting to visit Japan for sightseeing. This towns or prefectures usually offer you the experience you cannot get from other places, or other countries. Here, the culture is more preserved, and more genuine making the experience itself, awesome!
The second day spent in Fukuoka Prefecture was filled lectures about the different best practices that the Fukuoka City has.
First, we went to the Next Systems Company Limited, one of the developers of augmented reality and kinect technology in Japan. We were able to get to experience this type of technology that we usually see only in CNN or other major media organizations.
They had this sort of technology, which allows you to look like you are wearing something on TV Screen. They also had this technology that allows you to control something shown in the screen, something like what the doctors do in Grey’s Anatomy, when they usually examine a certain part of the organ of their patient.
It was so amazing because this humble company from Fukuoka is such a competitive one, and they promised to develop even more ground-breaking technologies that would further ease the life of people.
We also went to the Fukuoka Prefecture Governmental Office where we were received warmly by some of the officers. We had lectures about the different groundbreaking things in Fukuoka, such as the different initiatives that their government has started in the fields of Hydrogen Technology.
When the project is complete, I would not be surprised that it would be Fukuoka Prefecture’s name being credited for this kind of technology as they are now working so hard to perfect this hydrogen technology, which by the way they call as “Project Hylife”.
We started our second day in Fukuoka by visiting the Oki Town Recycling Center. It was so amazing to know that the Oki Town had a Zero-Waste policy implemented, which I thought was impossible.
In Oki Town, they implement segregation of 25 different types of waste, unlike the 15 types in neighboring towns. They use these wastes that they collect to produce BGF or the Bio-Gas Fuel, which in turn is being used by their residents. If not BGF, they produce fertilizer distributed to their farmers.
I wish we had something like that in the Philippines so that we would not have a problem about our waste disposal.
In the afternoon, we proceeded to Toyota Kyushu Plant, one of the largest in Japan. The Toyota Kyushu plant is the one manufacturing the luxury line of Toyota, the Lexus. Of course they didn’t allow us to take a picture, but their factory is mostly robot-controlled. They can produce 1 car for every 90 seconds. It usually takes 5 hours to make an entire car in such plant, such an amazing technology.
It was also during this day when we met our host family in Asakura City. Before meeting them, we had a small lecture about what Asakura City is all about. This humble city boasts not only its different produce, but also their different products out of the persimmon fruit. From juice to dried persimmon, they all have it. However, since they are still on the early days of production, they are still experiencing their birthing pains. I know, with the dedication and the workmanship of Japanese People, they would be successful in this venture of business.
I was very excited to meet my family, since it’s my first time to experience going to a host family. It was only my Okasan (mother) who fetched me from the venue, and after some short pleasantries and introduction, we then toured around Asakura.
We were two participants assigned to Okasan, the other was Jacky Hsu from Singapore who had a very good command of Japanese. Jacky was the translator since I didn’t speak Nihonggo.
Okasan brought us to this Buddhist temple found on top of a mountain which offers a scenic view of the Asakura City. It was quiet, and peaceful there that you could almost feel tranquility at its finest.
After that little tour around Asakura, we then went to my host family’s house where we met Otosan (father). We had a lot of things talked about over dinner, ranging from the different exchange experiences of Okasan and Otosan to our different experiences from our country. It was surely a learning experience for me given the fact that it became a venue for us to be able to share our different cultures.
Nighttime came, and we had to bid farewell to Okasan and Otosan. Although it was heartbreaking for me since I was starting to enjoy their company, I didn’t have a choice. Okasan dropped Jacky and I at the hotel, and I sure did promise to her that if there’s going to be a chance, I would surely come back and spend a week at their house!
Later that night, just few minutes before my birthday, I made it sure to experience Onsen (Japanese Public Bath) together with some of my friends from Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. We were all naked hahahah, but there was no awkward feeling when we were bathing.
The onsen was very relaxing, not to mention the Sulfur content of it which made it very therapeutic. I stayed in the hot spring for almost an hour then went to the sauna. Indeed, I had a very good way of welcoming my 20th year, in Japan.
I had a busy birthday, but nevertheless enjoying. We spent most of the day in the Kyushu Institute of Technology, one of the prestigious engineering universities in the Kyushu region. It has always been my question why I was grouped with engineering people, but on the brighter side, it exposed me to the different technologies present especially those that are initiated by engineers.
We also had the chance to interact with Japanese students. There I met many Japanese engineering students who warmly welcomed us in Kyutech. We exchanged ideas, experiences, and things that are interesting be it in our place or our country in general.
When we got back to the hotel that night, I thought my birthday night would end in a boring way, so I braved the streets of Fukuoka, and walked from my hotel going to Tenjin Central Park. After reaching Tenjin Central Park, I ate ramen along the sidewalks of the grand canal of Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is famous for its ramen, so I really made it a point never to miss the chance to taste their ramen. In the stall where I ate ramen, I met Naoe and her friends. She easily knew I was not from Fukuoka or Japan, perhaps because of the way I ate the ramen? Hahahaha.
Naoe-san was a very nice person, and it was a good thing she was good in English, which made it easier for us to understand each other. One of her friends treated me a glass of beer and we had kampai!
Indeed, it was one such memorable birthday for me.
It was time to go back to Tokyo. We bade farewell to our coordinators in JICE in Fukuoka. I would really miss Miki-san, and Yarimizu-san. They had been very tolerant of us despite our craziness and hardheadedness.
They were like our mothers from another country. If you are reading this, arigatou gozaimashita Miki-san and Yarimizu-san!