Japan… The country I’ve always wanted to visit since I was 5 (I don’t know why!). I clearly remember telling myself at the age of 5 while looking at the sky, I want to go to Japan! And made my dad promise that we will go to Japan.
It made more sense to me why I wanted to visit Japan as I grew older – Japan is a beautiful country, with polite, well-mannered people, with so many good and interesting things about it.
Right after college, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Japan with my parents and some siblings, as a graduation gift. (Thanks mom and dad!)
From visiting Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto Japan in a span of 2 weeks last 2008, here are my tidbits to share:
- In Tokyo Japan, there are many beautiful ladies. They carry themselves really well and always look presentable. They must be lucky as well for good genes, but on top of that they put effort in looking good. The girls/women have perfect skin, perfect hair (they take time to blow-dry their hair or curl it), are physically slim, wear full make-up (which looks good on them/not thick), and many wear false lashes. If you are a man, you might “fall in love” many times from just riding the train around Tokyo. If you are a woman you are bound to question your gender preference :p but really, you will admire these stunning ladies, and many wear mini skirts/shorts and wear high-heels even if they are commuting via MRT/train and taking long walks. And to add, even if they are riding the train/take public transpo, they are not afraid to carry their signature Louis Vuitton/Prada/Gucci/Balenciaga bag. (This is very different from how it is in The Philippines ^ ^ )
- Weird/Strange/Different – One might find them weird (in some context/in some ways), or strange due to the types of innovation/products that they have, or the stories they create (manga/comics). I think they are interesting and creative – unafraid of exploring possibilities or imagination. Some things you might find in Tokyo, Japan – “a miracle boober” which might be a cream or a patch that you apply to increase your breast size (sorry just guessing as I don’t understand the Japanese characters printed in the product), or unique comics/mangas about same-sex relationships (lesbian/gay).
- Pachinko- a unique way of unwinding
There is a place in Japan called ‘Pachinko’ which is an arcade place for adults, where they have a chance to win money. This is their version of slot machines. There are a lot of Pachinkos in Japan. It appeared as always full after business/work hours when we visited Tokyo. [Picture below from Wikipedia]
*Another way of unwinding for Japanese would be eating out for dinner and drinking beer late at night even if it is not yet Friday (as observed in Osaka Japan) *
- ^ ^ Kawaii, a Japanese term for ‘cute’ is a national thing. They have an eye for beauty, and they have a heart for anything cute. It is normal for adults to have ‘cutesy’ things such as Hello Kitty clothes/items, and sometimes even their food is cute in those bento boxes, arranged in a way wherein even kids would be excited to check their lunch box and eat their food. Some women play ‘dress up’ and go to a place called Harajuku, Japan (in Tokyo) where other men and ladies dress as characters from manga series/cartoons [“Cosplay”] or dress up cutely.
Respect for Cats – In Japan, it is close to impossible to see someone abusing a cat/being mean to a cat. It is common to see Japanese cats walking around or sitting peacefully in silence like a sushi in one corner/temple. Generally, Japanese people are very respectful and kind, and this extends to cats too. Some even treat their pet cat like a baby ^ ^ Japan is also the place where the famous Hello Kitty character was created.
- Yummy food– Sushi, Tempura, Katsudon, Japanese curry, Ramens, Japanese baked desserts, Matcha flavored candies/chocolates/drinks/desserts – you name it, they have it. Japanese have a high level of quality in their products as well as their food. I have not eaten a Japanese snack/food while in their country that doesnt taste good. They just have so many tasty/fresh/delicious food! Even the more affordable sushis found at the lower basement of malls (like the food-court) have decent sushis. For chocolate lovers, Royce chocolates is from Japan, and is cheaper there. They have the best Nama chocolates (I love the champagne flavour) and the potato chip chocolate. You can buy Royce chocolates at Duty free Japan, but might find it hard to actually see a Royce store in the city malls. When strawberries are in season, you would find many strawberry shortcakes in different bakeries/cafes. Make sure to try them! 🙂
- Great Vending machines – We dont have these in the Philippines, so I had vendo-envy because in the metropolitan cities of Japan (Osaka/Tokyo/etc.) you would be able to find a vending machine which offers a great range of milk tea, coffee, juices, drinks or even ice cream! And there were some machines offering different types of cigarettes
Nature amidst the city’s urbanization/being highly developed – It is very nice to see parks and trees still existing in the city even if Osaka is highly developed. In a mall called ‘Nambaparks’ in Osaka, a park exists at the very top of the mall, which I think is very cool [see pictures below]. During spring time (March-May… March and April best time) Japan transforms into a very beautiful place to fall in love, as “cherry blossoms” bloom usually color pink and sometimes white.
Bike-friendly Osaka, Japan – For bike lovers out there, bikes are more common as means of transportation in Osaka, than cars. Isles and isles of bikes can be found in streets, and there is no worry of it being stolen. [More of Japanese honesty on next bullet] Just watch out for fast running bikes! Though they will ring a bell to ensure you are alerted that a bike is coming-through.
- The Japanese are Honest – No wonder the ladies can peacefully carry their LV bags while commuting, or why Japanese teenagers can walk easily with their backpacks behind them. Modus-operandis or snatchers are not operating in Japan [at least from stories/from experience in Japan]. Kakainggit. Wish it was like that here in Metro manila. I misplaced my Japan Railpass there (it is like an mrt card but with unlimited access/rides for a certain number of days) and I thought it was lost forever. It was actually surrendered to the police station the same day I lost it, so I was still able to claim it back and use it. I was so happy because if not, my mom will be mad at me the whole trip for misplacing the expensive travel pass.
The many temples and places of worship – Japan is a pre-dominantly Buddhist country and their place of worship would be the temples/shrines, sometimes with Buddha statues, some without. Nevertheless, they are open to the public and are an ideal place to pray or meditate as there are no beggars around or solicitors. In the picture below, the visitors can offer a prayer and some monetary donation, and it is said that your wish will come true. Just to share, it doesn’t hurt to have faith and pray for what you want, as my prayer was granted. I guess it helped that I was in a location that aided my concentration and faith that God will provide, and answer my prayer.
- Beautiful Geishas – They still exist, and you may find them in Kyoto, Japan (as well as in Asakusa, Tokyo). A geisha is a professional female entertainer who entertains men at traditional tea houses, or private parties. Tea ceremony, traditional Japanese dance and playing of traditional Japanese instruments are some of the ways they entertain their guests. They are trained at an early age in order to look, and act the way they do. They are very graceful and poised with expensive kimonos for their outfits. 🙂
More about Japan and Japanese people
Japan has so much to offer, and so much things to see. As a traveler or tourist, one will surely enjoy the trip as not only is the country very beautiful, but the people are great and the city has no pollution or dirty areas. They have such great qualities of honesty, discipline, politeness, cleanliness and possess good manners. Although in Osaka, not everyone is confident and fluent in speaking English (there are more English speaking/fluent Japanese in Tokyo), I appreciated the fact that many tried to help us when we got ‘lost’ and trying to figure out which way to go from a Japanese map. You will also get to observe that in escalators, they are neatly lined up on one side, leaving the other space open for people rushing down/up.
I have been there only once, and hopefully I can go back and go to Mt. Fuji, as well as experience the hot springs and spas.
Japan has 4 seasons, and the best time to go would be Spring (mid-March-May) when it is beautiful and the weather is cool/bearable. The weather is still very cold on Feb or early March (colder than Baguio) perhaps around 5 Celcius-14 Celcius, colder at night.
To get there from Manila Philippines, you can take a direct-flight with Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines.
Tip: Keep checking for promo fares and book asap once you found a promo to get the best deals (seats run out fast). You can get a fare as low as around 10,100 php per way, if you are lucky enough to snag a promo fare from Cebu Pacific online.
Tourist Visa – For Filipinos, a tourist visa is required to enter Japan. The ones we got back 2008 was only good for 15 days, but my parents applied last year and were issued multiple-entry for 2 years.
Effective 30th of July, 2007, visa applications at the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines must be made through agencies accredited by the Embassy. All applications through these accredited agencies will be accepted at the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines.
For the accredited local agencies who can process the tourist visa for you, all you need is to pay them (not more than 2,000 php) and fill up the forms completely together with your id picture (4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background) pasted on form, a copy of your ITR (income tax return) original and photocopy, bank certificate (open a savings account if you don’t have one yet), and birth certificate. Ensure that you have an itinerary already and even better if you already booked a hotel/accommodation and return-ticket. Usually this is processed in 1 week more or less.
Some accredited travel agencies for Japan visa: Rajah Travel Corp (Manila), Pan Pacific Travel Corp (Manila & Cebu), Discovery Tour, Inc (Manila & Cebu). For a complete list with contact numbers, click here