I am writing this entry while I am inside the plane en route to the Philippines. I cannot seem to fathom how time has flown so fast in the past 7 days, making me wish to have stayed longer, bonded further, and tried to get you even more.
I never really thought we would make such good friends, because back during the first day of the activity, it was hard to imagine to be good friends given the different upbringing that we had, different customs and culture we grew up with.
The activity last night was really something that I could never forget simply because it made us know each one even more. It bonded us, and despite there are difficulties such as language barrier, we didn’t make it as a reason not to have fun, and enjoy the night.
It’s very sad, I know, to have to leave when we are still starting to really enjoy each other’s company. I would like to think that God had a purpose why it has to happen this way. Maybe because if he allowed us to stay longer, bond more, we might get tired of each other’s company, but this way, we shall always have the excitement within us, to contact each other, or to see each other wherever that would be.
All of you my brothers and sisters from Fukuoka J group had left a mark on me. You have influenced me, and I am going to be a better person when I get back to the Philippines bringing with me different learning about your country, the life’s lessons you have imparted on me, and the different fun and memorable experiences we had with each other.
I am very sorry that you might have seen me as someone who has a strong personality, that’s the usual first impression I get from people. But I know that as the days went by, your perception of me has changed. Hahahaha. Nevertheless, I still thank you because despite that, you still welcomed not only me but also the entire Philippine group in the Fukuoka J group.
I’m very sorry if I am too talkative, I just couldn’t help it. Perhaps it was because I have already felt comfortable with you guys.
To the Charice Pempengco team of the bus (the people who usually seat in the back portion), thank you for the laugh trips that we had. Although we were usually the nosiest people during trips, the noise was all worth it. I am now laughing while I am writing this part, remembering the small things we usually laugh about. How I wish we could see each other again soon.
To the rest of the Fukuoka J group, I surely enjoyed your company. We are living testaments that no language barrier or cultural differences can stand against friendship. To our coordinators, Yamaguchi-san, Miki-san and Yarimizu-san, I am always thankful that you have displayed tolerance to us. You have been our second mother here in Japan, and I know that although sometimes we are giving you headaches, you are still patient and understanding of us.
I will all miss you Fukuoka J group, I am now having a delayed onset of separation anxiety. 😦
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!
As usual, I woke up late again. I am surely finding it hard to adjust to Japanese Time. Make no mistake though for I have been trying my best to adjust into this 1-hour-advance-difference to the usual time I am used to. For me it’s harder when the time difference is almost negligible.
Whenever my coordinator would ask me why I am late, my usual excuse would be that I have let my roommates use the washroom first, which is the half-truth though. The truth is, we woke up late, and yet I would allow my roommates to use the washroom first.
What I am excited about this day is that we would finally go to Tokyo. Japan trip wouldn’t be complete unless you see Tokyo, they say. After 2 days of staying here in Chiba Prefecture, we’ll be heading to the capital of Japan. What made me more excited about this is the fact that I am going to meet two of my relatives, who I have not seen for the longest time already.
After checking out from Hotel Nikko Narita, a hotel I am going to miss because of its Baguio-city-like weather, we hopped inside the bus and there starts our two-hour sojourn to Tokyo.
They say, Chiba Prefecture is in the countryside of Japan and although it houses the Narita International Airport, it has a rural life on it. It’s the kind of rural life you see in the foreign movies. Luscious and verdant grasses , houses that are distant from each other, and of course cars that are almost non-existent except for the buses or cargo trucks that go to Narita Airport.
As I am writing this part of the entry, I am inside the bus, amazed with the different wonders before my eyes. Unlike me friends who have explored the downtown area of Chiba Prefecture, it was my first time to go out from the hotel premises, so you can just imagine how astonished I was with the surroundings. Pardon the first-timer.
It was around 9 am when we reached Tokyo. For preliminaries, we went straight to the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center where we listened lectures about the ASEAN-Japan Centre, Activities by Trade and Investment Division of AJC, and Activities by Tourism and Exchange Division of the AEC. After the talk, the program emcee opened the Q and A portion. Without any hesitation, I fired a question to the speakers that goes this way:
“We all know that the ASEAN Economic Community will commence come 2015. With just 2 years from 2015, the entire ASEAN Community and their supporter-nations such as US, China and Japan are trying their best to weather the different offs in the formation of the AEC.
One important factor that might determine the success of this AEC is the transportation sector. Transportation that includes air, water, and land. Transportation is very useful in delivering goods especially for trade in the ASEAN region.
Where does the Japanese Government stand on the issue of maritime dispute considering that in the recent months, several ASEAN countries had disputes not only with China but also with other ASEAN Countries?
Should we expect, in the coming days, that there will already be a unified stand of the ASEAN with regards to this maritime dispute?”
“It was a tough question”, the speaker jokingly replied. I’m sure as hell it was one tough question, and it perhaps make them sweat, but I wasn’t satisfied with the answer he gave me, nevertheless, I didn’t insist.
After the talks, we proceeded to Odaiba. Odaiba is a recently-developed place in Tokyo. We ate our lunch at the Aqua City Mall where one can see a replica of the famous statue of liberty. The rest of the time was spent exploring Odaiba.
Afternoon cam and we had to check in, in the hotel. This time, we were billeted in the Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. It’s the second hotel we stayed in this trip. What was great about this hotel is that the room was semi-Japanese inspired where we had Tatami beds. Also adding to the great experience was the view we had in our room. Great view it was of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay. In fact, right now, I am writing this part of the entry while gazing towards Odaiba and Tokyo Bay.
Evening came and my excitement has risen, this because I will be seeing my cousin and aunt.
After fixing myself, and after asking permission from my JICE Coordinator, we then went to downtown Tokyo.
Going to Shinjuku, we took a train ride. What surprised me was that the girls and boys are not separated unlike in the Philippines.
Shinjuku is a nice place especially at night. It is a shopping haven for adolescents said my aunt. It was indeed. You would see different designer brands from TopMan to H&M to Uniqlo. Almost every brand is there. It was a pleasant surprise that my aunt and cousin treated me for a shopping spree.
After shopping, my reaction was “I shouldn’t have brought anything for this trip”. Indeed, I am really thankful for the early birthday presents I have received from my generous relatives.
We ended the exploration of Shinjuku with a great dinner of anything but authentic Japanese Cuisine. I admit that I was never a fan of Japanese food in the Philippines, but once you have tasted a genuine Japanese food, in Japan of course, your perception would surely change, just like mine.
I ate a lot of sushi and sashimi. I also liked the Okonomiyaki and the Japanese style barbecue and fried chicken. The Japanese edamame or green peas was a good match for the beer that was served.
I’m finishing this entry facing yet again the beautiful view of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay at night from my room. Today might have been filled with nothing but excursions, nevertheless, there were a lot of things I have learned and experienced that I may not experience anytime soon when I get back to the Philippines.
Well, that’s it for now, as the hot water in the tub I have prepared for my hot bath is almost full. Sayonara!
I didn’t actually know I had trust issues with the buildings in Japan till during the general orientation of the program. Hahahah. “Just trust us, just trust our buildings” reassured the speaker during the program when he discussed about the earthquakes and the different things we should do during the earthquake.
But kidding aside, I actually appreciate that they are emphasizing on the earthquake part, since not a lot of the delegates had experienced an earthquake. Singapore delegation, for example, claimed they do not have earthquake. I kept mum, since Philippines almost always had an earthquake.
During the orientation, I have met with my fellow ASEAN delegates. It was nice of them (JICE, the organizer) that they have made it a point this time to group nations with other nations unlike in the previous programs where they would only group the participants per country.
Talkative as I am, I immediately brushed off any anxiety and started talking to them. Before I know it, I was already making friends with people. It is really great thing to note that these people, who are by the way not a native English speaker, are trying their best to communicate with us in English. “One family, one ASEAN” I told myself.
After the general orientation, we had a group orientation. There I came to know my group mates even more. It came as a surprise for me to know that we’re only two people majoring in Medical Field. Almost all of my group mates are majoring in engineering. From nanotechnology to civil to industrial, I felt I got mistakenly grouped.
Nevertheless, my group mates didn’t make me feel less welcomed. We even exchange some ideas about what we are majoring. They taught me what nanotechnology is all about, or what quantum physics is about. I also told them how you test samples of people from urine, blood, feces, sweat or smears.
It was surely a great day, and I have made a lot of friends.
As I went back to my room and plunged into a hot bath once more, I contemplated about many things. One, that no matter how diverse people are, there will always be things that would connect us –as for what thing, that, I will find in the coming days. Two, that hot bath is so relaxing I nearly slept in the tub.
I only had a few hours of sleep today after having spent the night with my high school classmates. Mercato is always a favorite destination when we hang out here in the capital. I bloated myself with barbecue, and more barbecues. It was surely a fun night despite the lack of sleep.
Our wake up call time was 6 am thus having just almost 2 hours of sleep, waking up was such a pain in the arse, bed was like a magnet. Uh oh.
Lunch time came and I found myself sitting in the Gate 9 of Japan Airlines. If yesterday, it felt like I had reservations in joining, today was a different mood. Although I still have feelings of hesitation, at least I am now excited about Japan.
The flight going to Narita was relatively fine, except for some heavy turbulence that came our way when we were exiting the Philippines. As a first time traveler to Japan, I couldn’t help but be observant of things. Especially that we are in one of their flagship carriers, Japan Airlines, I could say that my first encounter of Japanese culture will be on this plane.
JAL’s crew surely had never failed in giving us a first glimpse on what a Japanese culture is all about. It’s a culture that surely goes beyond the individual differences of people and races.
What I liked the most about our trip to Narita was the meal part. (HAHAHAHA Obviously.) It was such a great meal. The best part of that “best part” was the Haagen Dazs Ice Cream. Okay, enough said.
It was around 7 pm when we arrived in Narita. Although the immigration officer assigned to me displayed a smug face, I didn’t let that cut short my excitement. “Japan is very clean”, was the first thing I told myself while we were going out of the Narita Airport. I didn’t have much time to roam around the airport as we were trying to run against time to check-in in Hotel Nikko Narita nevertheless, it made me even more excited about the coming days.
To cap my day, I plunged into a hot bath and went to sleep.