Snippets of Japan

This is a throwback post, originally posted on my blog in April 2018. I really miss traveling. 😦

Okay, let’s get started, in no chronological order whatsoever. But the order of places we went to is Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Osaka. And we only spent about 30 minutes exploring the train station in Yokohama.

So my family and I went to Japan in December 2017. It was a very memorable trip and I really miss Japan! So why don’t I take a trip down memory lane by recalling everything I could remember about my Japan trip, compressing them into one long blog post while my memory is still fresh?

First of all, presenting,

Harry Potter Wizarding World, Universal Studios Japan, Osaka!!! 
It is like a dream come true! A disheveled witch bundled up in thick clothes swiftly walked through the Forbidden Forest, where she spotted a blue Ford Anglia laid abandoned on the forest ground. Freezing and yet excited, she finally arrived to her destination, the beautiful and magical village of Hogsmeade, whereby a picturesque view of a castle magnificently perched upon the cliff feasted her unbelieving eyes; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! After visiting Hogwarts and having the time of her life there, she strolled down the streets of Hogsmeade, watching wizards and witches from various walks of life choosing wands, buying robes and attempting magic. As she sipped her warm Butterbeer , she said to herself, “There is no Place like Home!!!” 

 My HOME!!!!! *cries dramatically* 
That wizard who literally jumped with joy and fell down flat to the ground upon entering Hogsmeade, LOL. I have a video of it, LOL. 
The disheveled witch bundled in thick clothing who looked so satisfied sipping her Butterbeer.
It tastes like A&W Rootbeer Float. We tried both the hot and the cold one. The cold one is highly recommended!

You could hear the soundtrack from the movie as you stepped into this place. It was so magical that you felt like crying. A place you had yearned to visit since you were eleven.  A dream come true indeed! 

Everything is so expensive here! Even the sweets!

This place was really amazing! Even the ladies’ toilet was designed to look like the girls’ bathroom in the first Harry Potter movie. There’s even a Moaning Myrtle sound effect in the toilet, but luckily no sight of her. 😆

I went to Ollivanders and bought myself a wand. There are two types of wands, the interactive ones where you could perform magic at certain locations within the vicinity of the Harry Potter Wizarding World, and the normal resin wand without any magical functions. 😜  For the interactive ones, you could choose between having wands used by the characters from the books- Like Harry Potter wand, Hermione Granger wand, Dumbledore’s Elder wand, so forth, or you could choose your own personal and original wand , or shall I say, the wand chooses you! 

As for me, I wanted something original. So I just chose one from the shelf, without knowing what kind of wand it is. The wand had chosen me, you see! The worker opened it and said “This wand is from the Hazel wood, it is for those who are intelligent and wise,” Okay… even though I’m a Ravenclaw, I do not perceive myself as someone intelligent or wise, but if the wand says so, then, perhaps I actually am, LOL. 

Description of the Hazel Wand from the website:Hazel wood is associated with wisdom, protection and magical skills. Hazel people are often wise beyond their years. They make inspiring teachers, combining creative talent and practical knowledge. Hazel people should be sure they take the time to share their gifts with others. 

But the Hazel wand doesn’t look nice. It looked a bit plain. I wanted to choose a prettier looking wand, and I chose the Willow wand!

Description of the Willow Wand: Willow wood has powers of protection, especially against natural disasters. Willow people are strong and flexible; they recover quickly from the unexpected. Willow people should face new challenges confident that each encounter only makes them stronger. 

This sounds more like it! The description deeply resonates with me! I need to face new challenges with confidence! 💪

And, I also bought a Hogwarts faux leather bound notebook. The Map comes with each purchase of interactive wand, and it shows locations in the HP world  where you could perform some magic! I posted the videos on my instagram, which is unfortunately, only accessible to friends and families. But maybe I’d post it on youtube to preserve the memories. 

So, let’s start from the beginning. We went to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. Bought the tickets beforehand on Klook, arrived there an hour before the opening time, and headed to Harry Potter Wizarding World first! 

We literally ran to that place, and thankfully, we only had to wait for half an hour for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, which is the best ride out of the two available there- another one is Flight of the Hippogriff, reserved for kids who couldn’t experience real, thrilling roller-coaster rides, LOL. I love Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, only that the language used during that 4D ride is in Japanese. 

As I was wearing tudung, I was required to clip my tudung to the lapels of my coat whenever I wanted to go for those extreme rides (thrill-rides enthusiast here!🙋) using the clips they gave me. They’re scared that the tudung would fall off during the rides.😂 How very considerate of them! But trust me, the pins that I used to keep my tudung in place are definitely more effective than those crocodile clips. Plus I was wearing a coat to keep it tucked inside!

Due to this regulation, I definitely did not enjoy the Flying Dinosaur ride, which is supposed to be the most thrilling ride at the park! The poncho that I was required to wear (no crocodile clips this time) got pulled to the front by gravity, covering my eyes with its hood throughout the entire ride! And I was sitting at the frontmost row! Which is supposed to be thrilling instead of me pulling the  hood up every few seconds so that I could see what was going on in front of me! Pfft!

There isn’t any halal eateries in the place so we just fed ourselves with bags of popcorn. And oh, to perform solat, you could go to the Information Centre near the entrance, requesting to pray in one of the meeting rooms there. But you had to take your wudhu at the toilet first. 

Nevertheless, I am very proud to say that we had successfully covered TEN rides on that day! We skipped the kiddy rides and we kind of missed the Terminator ride as it was closed at night. For some popular rides, we had to queue for hours (kind of regretting queuing for 2 hours for the Minions Ride), freezing in the cold air. It was freaking cold! 

Enough about USJ. 

Next, let’s talk about Fuji-san. Also known as my true love left in Japan. 💓

The iconic snow-capped mountain looked extremely gorgeous! My camera doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this God’s creation. You just have to be here to experience it yourself. I wished we could spend more time exploring the places within this area. There are several stations, corresponding to the lakes around Fuji mountain, and Kawaguchi station is the most popular one. There is also Aokigahara station, to which you can go to the Aokigahara forest,, notorious for being the place where people committed suicide. From this picture below you could see the dense Aokigahara forest located at the base of Fuji mountain. One day, I shall explore Aokigahara Forest! 

Taking the cable car up the hill and you could see the Kawaguchiko! (Ko=Lake) 
Dangos as in ‘Hana Yori Dango’! Hahaha

We ate Dangos here! Basically made of glutinous flour (mochi-like), served with finely ground nuts and syrup. 

And too bad we couldn’t climb the Fuji Mountain as the trek is closed during winter. We did witness a guy publicly proposing to his girlfriend with the view of the Fuji Mountain behind them, though, so it’s worth a sight. LOL. 

Next, to Kyoto. Told you this is not in any chronological order. 

One of the most unforgettable memories we had in Japan is on our first day in Kyoto. We boarded the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, which took about 3 hours of journey. It was raining, and yet we must not waste any moment by just sitting in our room doing nothing. So, to get to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, we kind of braced through the strong wind, using the umbrellas to shield us, the cold rain soaking my boots and leaving us freezing along the way. I am very grateful that I did not fell sick there. Alhamdulillah.

It was approaching dusk and we could see a number of shrines and…. TOMBS around us as we walked to the Grove 😱, But well, nothing much to be scared of as we were not alone there. The place could get pretty packed, regardless of whether it was raining or not.

I looked so happy even though my feet were soaked, LOL.

We had to wait until 7 pm, where the lamps around the place was lit up, transforming the once dark ambiance into this beautiful sight! 

The weather was 2 degree celsius and it was raining. Go figure.

After taking pictures, we went out, buying the steaming hot fish-shaped puffs with red beans, matcha and custard fillings. We walked to the Kimono Forest- I did not take any picture there, only a video, then we boarded a bus from Kyoto Station to Gion to search for the place featured in Memoirs of a Geisha movie.

While looking, my parents, well… stumbled upon a place where apparently, a meeting of Yakuzas was held,  at least according to the both of them who watched My Boss My Hero 😄. They were not joking. They simply said “It looks like a dangerous place with dangerous people in it, like Yakuzas, with those big long black cars” Ohhkayyy….

So we realized that we were at the wrong part of Gion and that we should have looked for Shirakawa Stream instead. By then, it was already late at night, my parents were tired, and we went back to our hotel. 

The next morning, we were up and about, made our way to the first destination of the day, the Fushimi Inari, famous for its Torii Gates! Also featured in the Memoirs of a Geisha movie. This place looks so vibrant with its bright orange gates. It could be quite crowded if you arrived late, and almost impossible to take a picture of yourself posing by the gates without anyone photobombing you. 

Then to the Kyoto Imperial Museum 

I must say that the gardens are more beautiful that the ones at Gyeongbokgung, South Korea. And best of all, free entrance! Only that they’ll check your bags first before entering. 
Later in the evening, we decided to head over to Nishiki Market, and to go to Shirakawa, Gion from there. 

 I stumbled upon a shop that sells kimonos for a cheap price! Those are not second-hand kimonos- as claimed by them. I don’t know, they didn’t really understand English while we didn’t understand Japanese. Nevertheless, I bought a set of black silk kimono- minus the geta for about RM80, which is really a bargain as kimonos are much more expensive as compared to the yukatas! The shop owner was amused when we told her that we wanted to walk to Shirakawa, Gion, wearing the kimonos.  
And well, it was quite an exhilarating experience! We (particular me, as I was wearing tudung), received stares from the Japanese  as we walked down several streets from Nishiki Market to Shirakawa. They were probably wondering “Where is this girl in tudung going to, in a kimono?” I was rather embarrassed!

Mak and Abah. Hehe.

This place is so beautiful at night! 

And what do you know, we spotted TWO real geishas in Gion. They appeared out of nowhere, and they walked really fast!Spotting real geishas in Gion, how lucky could you get? Not everyone was given the same opportunity. 😃

Done with Kyoto, now moving back to what we did in Tokyo. 
We stayed in an apartment in Asakusabashi, which is near the Asakusabashi station, and one station away from the Akihabara station.

Akihabara is dubbed as the Electric (yup, not electronic) Town of Japan as there are many choices of electrical gadgets and appliances sold here. There are also many shops selling action figures and anime stuff. . My siblings bought One Piece figurines from one of the stores in Akihabara, cheaper than what you found online. There is also a store called Don Quijote, nicknamed Donki. It is about 5 storeys high and that it sells many things from normal everyday clothes to cosplay costumes, 2nd hand LV bags, G-shock watches, cosmetics, and the list goes on. There are many branches of Donki across Japan, but the ones in Tokyo are usually opened 24/7. 

We went to the famous Meiji Shrine at Shinjuku on our first day in Tokyo, lugging our bags with us, LOL. 

And we went to the Tokyo Imperial Palace Garden on the next day. Entrance is free!

It was late autumn to early winter, thus you could see many trees of these beautiful golden and reddish-brownish-magenta-ish coloured leaves. 💖

The beautiful interior of Tokyo Camii (Mosque)

We performed our prayers at the beautiful Tokyo Camii, located at Yoyogi Uehara. 
Stopped by the Tokyo Station to get to this shop at JR Marenouchi- Traveler’s Factory! 

 I had been wanting to buy this since ages! This leather notebook is produced by the Traveler’s Company in Japan and it is a popular notebook used across the world, especially those who embarked in creative journaling. This Tokyo Station version is special in a sense that it is available exclusively at Tokyo Station, Japan. Again, Tokyo Station is the only place in the world where you could get this special edition!  The Traveler’s Company also produced the Airport TN which is only available at the Narita Airport. 

We also went to Shibuya to see the Hachiko Statue and to join in the pedestrians crossing the super busy Shibuya Crossing- dubbed as the busiest intersection in the world. It was really fun! We kept on laughing as we rushed to cross to the other side- my parents included. My brother recorded a video of it. And It wasn’t just us. Other people did the same too! Didn’t manage to take any pictures there as my phone had ran out of battery. Went to Asakusa at night, and took a really short trip to Yokohama just to utilize our 7 Days JR Pass.😄 

That’s all about Tokyo. Now moving on to Hiroshima. We took the shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima. This place is familiar to the history buffs and to those who actually paid attention in history class during Form 3. 😏

In August 1945, the US troops dropped the atomic bomb to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, consequently leading to the surrender of the Imperial Japanese Army. also marking the end of the Japanese Occupation in Asia. 

This historical structure is called the Atomic Bomb Dome, located at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It was a government building back then, and when the bomb was dropped directly above this building, everyone in it perished within seconds. 

And it was raining, again. *sobs*. 

And oh, we spotted a store selling Kimonos, so I bought one beautiful geta (Japanese clogs) from this store to be paired with my kimono, of which I’m planning to wear during urmm…. Bon Odori Festival, maybe? LOL

Basically that is all about Hiroshima. We could have explored this place longer, had it not been for the non-stop rain and lack of time. We had to catch a shinkansen to go back to Osaka. 
Other things about Japan worth mentioning: 

I got addicted to this clear Milk Tea!
Japanese Adult Magazines widely sold in the convenient stores, LOL. 
Mangas I couldn’t read. 😔
I beg to differ. I am still an Arashi fan!

ARASHI!!!! This brings back memories. And no, I didn’t buy the magazines.

 Didn’t take pictures of the clean and technologically advanced Japanese toilets. Hahaha. I could vouch that all the toilets that I went to in Japan were really clean! Imagine my disgust upon arriving  in KLIA2 to use the loos there. 😖

You could get these for free at the Haneda Airport! 


My thoughts about Japan:

We stayed for about 8 days in Japan. 4 days and 3 nights in Tokyo, 3 days and 2 nights in Kyoto, and 3 days and 2 nights in Osaka. When we stayed in Tokyo, we really made use of our JR pass and went everywhere using the JR train. There were just too many places to be explored, and that we lacked time to explore every single one of it in just a short period of time. We missed Ebisu, where I wanted to see the Clock Tower at Ebisu Garden Place- featured in Hana Yori Dango, and we missed the fashion town of Harajuku. We didn’t even explore Chiba, or going to Tokyo Disneyland/Disneysea.

When we left Tokyo and stayed in Kyoto, I couldn’t help but to miss the city vibes of Tokyo. Kyoto is a bit different. Compared to the modern metropolitan of Tokyo, it is more traditional. It mostly offers scenic and historical places of attractions, and that it has a more tranquil environment as compared to Tokyo. Here, we mostly commuted using the ICOCA card, which is like the T-Money or Oyster Card. Kyoto exudes that old city vibe. It was once the capital of Japan, and it will never make anyone forget of this fact as it continues to stand majestically like a retired general who had fought so many wars and still having the air that commands respect from those around him. You could say it’s like a matriarch city of Japan. Still, we kind of regretted not exploring more places that Kyoto has to offer. I think I’d have to stay in Kyoto for a month in order to do that! 😉 

Hiroshima, on the other hand, is a charming, classic town.  We got around the city by using trams. So old-school right? And it was our first time taking trams, haha.

As for Osaka, well, we didn’t manage to explore much of Osaka. It is a coastal city, and it has similar vibes like that Tokyo. The reason why we went to Osaka is primarily because of the Universal Studios Japan. And the reason why we went to USJ is because of the Harry Potter Wizarding World. 😛

In my traveler’s notebook, I retrospectively wrote:

I love this country to bits! The weather, the people, the public transportation system, the culture, the places, and most importantly, I love the fact that I was there with my family! I cherished each moment spent with them, and I desire to do that again and again, insya Allah.

On another hand, I wish for our country to be like Japan, where the government and opposition work together for the sake of the country and its people.
The cleanliness of the public toilets, the hot drinks dispensed by the vending machines, I’m going to miss all that! The same goes with the extremely punctual public transports!

But Japan has its own problems too; too many people- especially the youths are getting homeless because of the high cost of livings.

We met Halim, a Malaysian guy working in Japan. He told us that the standard dress codes for the office workers are black suits, white shirts, neckties, black shoes and black briefcase. Whether you’re a CEO or a mere office boy, you’d have to comply with those dress codes.

Most of these youths couldn’t afford to pay the skyrocketing rents of rooms and houses in Tokyo, so they would have no choice but to live in cardboard houses at the parks; Shinjuku Park is an example of those parks. But they are doing it legally as the government couldn’t do anything about it.

The government couldn’t just give them rumah PPR like in Malaysia, just to put it from our perspective. Thus, the city authority gave them the permission to live at the park from 12 midnight till 6 am. By 6 am, the park must be cleared of any traces of anyone ever living there. During the cold winter season, some of them stayed in cyber cafes, which charged them based on hourly rents, definitely cheaper than paying for the exorbitant one-month rent.

So, the next time you go to Japan, and see those smartly-dressed Japanese workers in their suits, take a look whether they’re bringing a trolley bag with them. If they do, they’re probably homeless. This is not what I said, this is what Halim said.

What touched my heart is that the workers, whether they are just working at the ticketing counters, or as the train conductors, they have a very good attitude, and that they are very respectful to others. I could never forget the sight of one of the cable car workers bowing deeply as  as you went up to the hill by the cable car. They simply respect you as their customers!

 And when the conductors wanted to see your tickets in the train, they talked with the same polite tone to EVERYONE, without getting tired or fed up for repeating the same sentences over and over again.

“Can I see your ticket please?” (In Japanese)
and when we showed them our tickets, they’d bow and say
“Arigato Gozaimasu!” over and over again to EVERYONE, their faces never stopped smiling.

During rush hours in the morning, there was this one train guy who gave words of encouragements to the Japanese office workers who rushed through the station to catch their trains, clearly pressed for time.

 He’d shout
“Ganbatte!” and all those other encouraging words like “Don’t give up!” and “You can do it!”. Witnessing this beautiful moment touched my heart too. Sometimes you don’t need some actions to be translated into languages you could understand. You could just feel it. The universal language that everyone could comprehend.

And whether they are working at the convenient stores or any shops, they are so proud with what they are doing, and they gave the best service that they could offer to their customers.

If only we could be like them in terms of these exemplary behaviors.

Halim also said that in the Japanese elementary school syllabus (age 7-9),  more emphasis is given towards moral teachings and on the importance of cleanliness, like respecting other people, cleaning your classrooms, picking up the trash, etc, rather than teaching them purely academic stuff. Thus, the values that had been ingrained in them since they were young would continue to flourish and stay true to them until they become adults. And they would teach the same things to their children, and the cycle would continue until the next generations to come.

If only our Education Minister could create something like this in Malaysia.

Other than that, the Japanese government is also very generous to the civil workers. They’d be given bonus of 2 times a year, and the bonus would come in the form of 3 month salaries! Or was it six?

Again, I wish our government would do the same. 😎

Lastly, I hope Malaysia could take a leaf (or several leaves)out of Japan’s book and emerge as a developed country, socially, economically- among others, with citizens of the first-class mindsets, and a higher Ringgit value. 🙆

That’s all from me. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Once this COVID-19 Pandemic is over, I want to explore other parts of Japan, like Gifu and Hokkaido. But then again, I have other countries in my list to go to! Haha.

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