“I travel for the sake of moving, from one destination to another. I travel to see things from different perspectives. I just want to keep walking…”
2016, the year I decided to take a break from the corporate world and spent six months in Japan. My aim was to travel, and study Japanese language at the same time as I strongly believe local language could make the journey goes one step further through conversations with the locals.
So I packed my bags, stuffed my furniture in a storage in Singapore and took a flight to Nagoya on 25 June. I lived through three seasons in Japan from Summer to Winter, experiencing the change of colors, natures, seasonal festivals and cuisine along the way. I traveled whenever I could, I stayed outdoor whenever I had the chance, for I believe miracles happen out of home, where we feel most comfortable at all times. Even spending an hour in the park watching people, staring at the sky and envisioning the future has brought so much joy and enlightenment.
In those 6 months, the journey has been meaningful, and profound as people I met along the way have widen my world, opened my eyes and touched my heart. People from all walks of life have allowed me to learn about other cultures and customs than just Japanese culture. Most importantly, I comprehended kindness is the greatest thing of all and love, is an action of giving.
“Love, like respect, isn’t something you get; it’s something you give.” ~ Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts.
Summer in Japan themes around Natsu Matsuri (summer festivals), fireworks & picnics and flowers! I was fortunate enough to have done all of that, across Japan. Uniquely different in all aspects, Nebuta Festival and Tachi Nebuta Festival in Aomori, and Kanto Festival in Akita were amazing. Picnic and fireworks at Toyota City and Shin Maiko beach with friends were enjoyable and thrilling while cycling through lavender farm and multi-color flowers on the grassland in Hokkaido was refreshing.
Autumn, the most romantic season of the year is best spent by seeing autumn foliage in Japan, also known as ‘momiji’. Over a small talk at the school’s corridor, I had the chance to see momiji with sakura at once, a rare sight in Aichi Prefecture and momiji light up in Korankei, near Toyota Shi. The beauty of momiji interacting with the power of lights is magical. Autumn, on the other hand, is also the best time of the year for trekking. The trek in Nakasendo – the old highway from Tokyo to Kyoto in the Meiji period, in two separate trips with different people had been incredibly breathtaking. 10 days solo travel in Hiroshima, Okayama and Shikoku with a JR Pass in hand was another memorable journey where I met many lovely people along the way over small talks and drinks. A dip in Japan’s oldest onsen, Dogo Onsen in Shikoku was the highlight of the highlight of the trip, I was reborn.
While Nagoya doesn’t get too cold in winter, getting away from Nagoya to the north for some snows and cold air is highly recommended. I went to Shirakawa-Go, a UNESCO world heritage site to witness the Gassho-Zakuro houses aged over 250 years old and Nagano to meet the snow monkeys. The temperature was close to zero degree Celsius, however the journey was warmed up by beautiful people. On my second last week in Japan, I was determined to travel solo again, for some quality me time before closing the Japan Chapter. A revisit to Kyoto has brought new perspectives, it redefined the historical city in my mind. En route, I stopped by the world’s renowned deer park in Nara, a UNESCO world heritage site, taking wefie with my “deer” in an ultimate free space.
These are my stories in Japan in a nutshell. Read the collection on Special Feature.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have been part of my Japan chapter, and walked with me on this journey. You have made the journey worthwhile.
Aki, Bee, Calvin, Chin, Claire, Eileen, Jenny, Leika, Meng, Mizue, Saho and classmates at ECC Japanese Language Institute, Nagoya.
Thank you for your kindness, love and trust in me. Miss you all.