I lived in Japan for six months about two years ago. In that short span of time, I fell in love with the country.
I’d always wanted to go to Japan. As a kid, I watched a lot of anime, so naturally I was curious about all the fancy pink blonde hair, the incredibly huge puppy-dog eyes, the micro-mini school skirts (before “micro-mini” even got invented), the samurai, the ninja, the blend of modernity and tradition, the subtle horror culture. Everything just seemed so different there. So, when I finished college and earned a bit of money, I got myself a student visa (because learning Japanese was my only ticket to Japan then!) and flew off to the land of the rising sun. I didn’t know it then, but I was living in my second home.
So, two years after my six-month Japanese language education, I’m going back to my beloved Nihon. And here are a few things I look forward to:
1. The excellent customer service
Customer service in Japan never disappoints. NEVER! I once had the experience of buying a pair of slacks and a skirt in a clothing store near Myourenji station in Yokohama. Unlike the department stores in malls, this shop was pretty small and run by two people only. So I thought I’d be pretty inconspicuous here, and they’d leave me alone. (I never did like the salespersons tailing me in the department stores here in the Philippines, with their judging eyes and their purple eye shadow.) But I was wrong! The people in this little store didn’t leave me alone. BUT I liked that they didn’t. I mean, they didn’t “tail” me or look at me like the illiterate and strange foreigner that I must seem. No. Instead, they attended to my needs. A foreign concept to me! The female attendant helped me pick out what looks best on me. She didn’t want me to buy a skirt which looked too big on me. (I like salespeople who wouldn’t flatter me just to make a sale.) She also tried her best to talk to me in English; we chatted a little bit about my school and life in Tokyo. After choosing the one which I liked best among the choices she gave me, she carefully folded them up and placed them in a very pretty paper bag. Because it was raining that day, she put some plastic around the bag so that it wouldn’t get wet. And after that, she thanked me profusely and saw me off at the door, bowing to me as I bade good-bye. I felt like a goddess!
2. The discipline in the train stations
Japanese people have a sense of concern for others, or at the very least, a sense of decency when using public transportation. And I’m sorry to say that I never experienced this in the Philippines. In train stations in Japan, people line up! They don’t rush inside the train; they wait for people to get out first before they get in. I’ve always thought that was pretty simple. You don’t magically get space inside the train if you don’t allow people to get out first. And doing your musical chairs maneuver and bumping against that old lady with the two heavy grocery bags at that! Apart from this, people in Japan do think of others when using the escalators. People who are in a hurry walk on the right side of the escalator. Those who can spare a minute or two stay on the left. Again, that’s pretty simple! Unlike here in the Philippines where people hog all the space and while they’re at it, they either (a) chat up their friends, often too loudly, or (b) use the time to publicly display their affection to their boyfriend or girlfriend, like the escalator was just another theme park ride and they are on a separate bubble of reality where they’re on a perpetual date. And oh! The best part about train stations in Japan is that the trains are on time! If the schedule says that the train arrives at 10:02, it will arrive at 10:02. Not like this stupid nonsense in the Philippines where people wait for the train to fill up like it’s just another jeepney… only longer and bigger and oh wait! It’s actually a TRAIN, people! You can probably tell that I’m deeply annoyed by commuters here in the Philippines, and so, because I use public transportation a lot, I am soooooo looking forward to a better transportation experience in Japan.
3. Gyoza with crispy bottoms, fresh strawberries, green tea Kit-kat, nikusoba, Japanese soy sauce, sushi… ahh… Japanese food!
I’ve always loved Japanese food. I think Japanese food is delicious, healthy, clean, and prepared with finesse. I generally love food, and I like other types of food, as well, like Italian (at least with my limited notion of what Italian is), British (same as Italian), and American. But Japanese food ranks near the top of my list. In my six-month stay in Japan, eating soba, rice, shake or salmon preserves, and sashimi, I actually became healthier. And that’s not a euphemism for “fat”! Because I felt healthy, my mood was better, my countenance lighter. Although a bit expensive most times, I always looked forward to every dining experience.
4. The four seasons
Well, yes, I love warmth, I love sunshine, and I love the tropical weather in the Philippines. But I also love the four seasons in Japan! Especially spring and fall.. *ehem* excuse me, autumn! (British boyfriend insists.) I love how the colors of the leaves change from green to yellow or red or bright orange. And I love how the cherry blossoms slowly open up, as if welcoming life once more after a long harsh winter. For a person who grew up with just warm and warmer on the temperature scale, having three other seasons is a welcome change. In my perspective, it’s what counts as exotic!
5. A trip to an onsen and other similar explorations
I’ve never tried going to an onsen before. It’s one of the few things I haven’t really experienced in Japan. So when said British boyfriend said he’d never done it too.. well, we’ve got ourselves a trip to plan! In fact, I am looking forward to exploring more of Japan. Last time I was there, I never really got a chance to go around the country. My life revolved around Tokyo (where I studied) and Yokohama (where I lived). The farthest I got to was, if I’m not mistaken, Urawa in Saitama, when I was looking for a new place to stay. British boyfriend (when he wasn’t boyfriend yet) once told me while we were on a train together, “There’s always something to explore in each area of Japan. There’s always something interesting in every station, in fact.” So, my traveler gene once again got reactivated (that sounds very strange, but well..), and so I look forward to seeing more of Nihon once I’m back.
6. Lazy days with the Boyfriend
Well, you can tell I’m crazy in love (haha!), but apart from that, I enjoy my boyfriend’s company very much. I like talking to him or being quiet with him. I love watching TV with him or sharing stories with him in coffee shops. I like exploring malls or looking at furniture with him. He’s an extreme couch fan. I love dining with him, trying his favorite burger, visiting aquariums with him, watching tortoises try to escape their small smelly-looking pods. I just simply love doing stuff with him because he’s just fun to be with. And I know I’ll have many new friends in Japan, but nothing beats the company of your soulmate and best friend. So after almost a year of long distance relationship, you can tell them I’m pretty excited about being with him at last. Haha! I am crazy in love, I suppose.
So, in a few weeks, I’ll be flying again to the land of the rising sun, speaking my crooked Japanese, eating a new flavor of Kit-kat, offering my seat to an obaasan in the trains, checking out a new restaurant in Carrot Town with my boyfriend, and seeing anime characters come to life again. Although I’m a little nervous about what my life is going to be, I’m pretty sure it will be fun and exciting and more than I had expected and hoped for.
So, my beloved Nihon, see you soon!