Euan’s Japan Journal
Let me share my journey with you.
We boarded the plane on the 24th of June, arriving at Narita Airport on the 25th at 6:30am. We began our Japan tour with a trip to the National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre. (Pic Below)
This was where we had our orientation on the trip and what was required of us after the trip.
We had our first meal in Japan at a Cha Soba restaurant along one of the Japanese streets corners. Our first meal in Japan! Though I am not an avid fan of noodles, the Cha Soba definitely left me pleasantly surprised being light, tasty and refreshing. It came paired with curry vegetables as well as one of the best Miso soups that I have ever had.
We then moved on to the Panasonic Centre. This is where we learned about Panasonic’s state of the art technology and well as their many ecofriendly efforts and how they plan to change and improve the future of home living. Seeing the vast number of Panasonic televisions and other devices around Japan definitely gave me the impression of how large an impact all these measures could make not only in Japan but in the world. It definitely was an eye opener and I am glad to see such measures being taken to know that large companies are trying their best to fight against global warming. We ended the day with dinner at a buffet restaurant with a view overlooking the Tokyo Bay. A great first day indeed.
Our day was divided into a visit to JTB Corporation (Japan Travel Bureau) and the Suginami Animation museum. The trip to the JTB Corporation building began with a lecture regarding tourism in Japan as well as the falling rates of tourism in Japan which led to our goal of this trip to find out what we define “Cool Japan” as being. In other words what we personally felt was different or special in our opinion of Japan.
(Genevieve and Vivian @ JTB)
We then had a tour around the JTB building and how they worked.
(Tour of JTB)
Shortly after we went for lunch followed by a visit to the Suginami Animation Museum. At this Museum, we did our own flipbook animations which were then made into a video, which was passed to us. After this we got to look at and had a tour the history of animation of Japan from the past to the present. Being a fan of anime, the amount of work and skill that these anime required really gave me a sense as to how hardworking and passionate these anime artists were. The dedication to their works could definitely be seen in the final product that captured the hearts of their audiences such as the popular favourite anime “Naruto”.
(Suginami Animation Museum)
We woke up early to get ready to leave Tokyo for Nagano. This was where we would then have a homestay with our host families. Before we met our homestay families, we stopped by Matsumoto University. As it was a long bus ride many of us took the opportunity to rest on the bus. However, the moment we reached Matsumoto University, we were greeted by a large crowd of students with bright smiles on their faces waving and holding a banner to welcome us. This lifted our spirits greatly. We had a wonderful lunch with students from the university exchanging information about our countries. The first thing we always is that Singapore has only ONE season, namely summer!
So we never fail to mention how wonderful the Japan weather is in contrast to our sunny Singapore. We then had a sharing session with the Japanese students as we got into groups on various aspects and similarities and differences between Japan and Singapore. My group was assigned sports. Being a sportsperson, it was interesting to learn about Japan’s traditional sport which was Sumo and y other sports which are popular in Japan. There was a Japanese Pop dance Performance by two students, followed by our cultural performance of Chan Mali Chan. It was two very contrasting performances but both great nonetheless.
We went to Matsumoto castle where we learned about an ancient Samurai castle and the Samurai ways.
The castle had amazingly steep steps which were so hard to climb but our guide of over 70 years of age climbed it as if he was in his 20s. We were all definitely impressed while still trying to catch up with him through the whole tour. The day ended with us being dropped off with our homestay families. Four of the guys were staying with the “Emahi” Family. They were so welcoming of us into their home with a full spread of food, the moment we arrived, making us feel just at home. That night, we ate like true Japanese locals as well as slept on the tatami mats. A once in a lifetime experience.
We had an udon making session where we learned how to make udon. With only 3 simple ingredients, water, salt and flour, with some effort, we made the tastiest noodles.
(Udon Making) (Check out the hole!)
We even had to put the dough into plastic bags, step all over them for 15 minutes at two different times each, in the udon making process. And as expected our unfortunate ex-president Andrew Yow broke a hole in the plastic bag, giving our udon some extra love and flavour, if you know what I mean. We then had a nice walk down a stretch of houses to reach the sake brewery. It was ready for consumption, as the brown hanging tree at the entrance indicated. If the tree was green, it meant that the sake was not yet fully ready. We also got to look around the art museum and small Japanese museum upstairs.
We had a lecture on agricultural tourism to learn more about Nagano and its agriculture as well as its environment. After the short lecture and discussion, we went for lunch and then we headed to the world Silhouette Museum where we got to see beautiful Silhouette artworks. Unfortunately, no photos were not allowed. We then went to the Ikenotaira Hotel which runs the museum and the surrounding theme park. It is a mountain based Ski resort with various attractive amenities such as the theme park, museum and the onsen.
(Ikenotaira Ski Resort)
We then had the one of the highlights of the trip where we got to have a lecture on tourism in Japan as well as the hotel by none other than the President of the Hotel himself. He gave us insights into his hotel how it began, how it became what it is today and how it is run. It definitely left us very impressed. With a President in his 20s! We asked how he was able to manage such a heavy burden at such a young age and he credited his qualified and capable staff. He is definitely a very humble man with great leadership traits. At one point, I caught him outside the hotel waiting for an important guest. A president who waits in the cold for an important guest just to welcome them definitely left an impression on me.
(President of Ikenotaira Ski Resort)
We then had free time and we got to experience the Onsen which was the nude hot spring bath in the hotel. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience, as it was common in Japan but not at all in Singapore. But as they say when in Rome, do what the romans do. So in Japan, do what the Japanese do I guess!
We then said our farewells to the hotel and the president as he gave us parting souvenirs. We then headed back to Tokyo where we went to the Meiji Shrine an iconic shrine and tourist destination in Tokyo. We then headed of the Harajuku which was known to be the cosplay district of Japan. We had some time to explore the area and the shops which were interesting as well as buy all sorts of snacks along the way as we shopped.
Sadly time flew by and this was our last day in Japan. I sure wish our stay was longer. We spent the day to present all our findings to some JTB senior management staff. Our Singapore Polytechnic group was assigned Pop culture in Japan where we focused on the area of animation in Japan and pointed our ways in which they could improve the marketing of such animation and Japanese Pop culture in Singapore. Our presentation was done by Genevieve Goh of DTRM 02 who presented our findings not only to the JTB senior management staff but to the representative from the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Japan as well. She did a splendid and professional presentation representing Singapore Polytechnic. All our presentations greatly impressed the JTB senior management staff and the MOFA representative as well. Our tour guide surprised us with a visit to the imperial Palace.
(Presentation of findings to JTB & MOFA)
Japan is definitely a country of excellent service and they have a wonderful culture. It was a memorable representing Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore as well. Being able to experience this trip with people from the other 4 polytechnics as well was definitely an honour. People who were once strangers have now formed great friendships.
I hope that similar trips perhaps could be organized again perhaps not only for 25 students as a student exchange but as a program to allow more people to get to experience the wonderful culture and offerings of another country. This can help to further strengthen relations between the countries as well as boost the images of the countries. This may give many the opportunity. This trip definitely has left a mark on me, it opened my eyes to a new country and culture which I had never experienced prior to this trip. My only wish is that I could have brought along all my friends from my course to experience it with me as well. I am definitely blessed to have received such an opportunity and am greatly grateful to the Japan government and all parties involved in organizing this amazing trip. I truly hope more people will be able to experience this first hand as well and learn for themselves what makes a country unique and find out what we tried to find out personally as well what makes Japan, “cool”!
In a nutshell that was my experience. A vast storybook condensed into a 3 page journal. If you want the full story, I leave you with only one suggestion, to bring an empty storybook there yourself and write your very own story, to inspire, to mesmerize, and to captivate.
Signing off with one of my favourite quotes of the trip:
What do you define travel as? A trip from one place to another? For leisure or for business?
Well the way I define travel is it being part of a story.
– Euan Liew