Japan Part 1: Introduction

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The purpose of this series of blog posts, is to primarily indulge my personal collection of travel memories. My mom has always been asking me to write more since she thinks I’m pretty good at it, so this is also me being a good, filial son, listening to my mother. I hope that by reading this, you might get some form of a travel bug for Japan, a destination I highly recommend for avid travellers. It really was a fantastic trip with fantastic people, and so I’m documenting it through this blog, which will allow me to engrave the best moments I remember from the trip onto my personal web space. In this trip, we covered Takayama – Shirakawa-Go – Kanazawa – Kyoto – Osaka!

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As a kid, I grew up watching a ton of anime. It was my gateway to learning more about the Japanese culture. There’s a saying that goes something like, “whatever you experience when you’re young will shape you.” Being exposed to anime like Digimon, Rurouni Kenshin, and many more, made me want to learn more about the places which inspired various settings in these shows. Naturally, as a kid getting Rm10 for pocket money each week, the idea of saving up for a trip to Japan seemed ridiculous. Fast forward to my early adolescence now, having part-time jobs made the idea a lot more achievable.

A lifesaver for travellers

When this promotion came out around June 2017, I had no idea myself and 3 other friends would buy flight tickets to Japan on impulse. Going to Japan has always been a personal dream of mine, so when the opportunity to get cheap tickets presented itself, it was really hard to say no. At around RM700 for a return-flight ticket from KL to Kansai International Airport (including additional luggage), the ticket was a steal. We decided to travel to Japan from 29th December 2017 – 12th January 2018, celebrating New Year’s in Japan. As 4 young dudes, most of us being students, we really had to juggle our responsibilities. The 6 months we had leading up to the trip included us penny-pinching, planning and proactively doing whatever we could to ensure our trip to Japan would go on without a hitch.

A lot of our planning was made easier thanks to this amazing Facebook group. Many members of the group were veteran travelers with an abundance of knowledge on Japan, which helped out with recommendations.

The day finally came, we went the airport and soon enough there were four of us bidding goodbye to my parents who decided to send us off.

(Important note: For the purpose of storytelling, my friends names are Kenneth, Derek and Brandon. I am Jerry)

Somehow as I googled Pablo, this meme of Kanye West’s album came up…

 

There, much better

As we approached the security checkpoint, we were joking about how Brandon constantly loses his stuff. So with my incredible genius mind, I suggested whoever forgot/misplaced anything during our travelling time would have to buy a Pablo cheese tart for everyone else to share. Everyone agreed.

…and with my incredible genius mind, I left my backpack at the security checkpoint while we walked towards our boarding gate, realising halfway.

With 1 hour to kill, as we waited to board our plane, we made fun of my genius, took a couple of photos to let the whole world know we were going to Japan, and made fun of Derek’s amazing spelling as he posted a photo to his Facebook wall.

“Langkawi” is the code name for Japan among our group of friends, an inside joke. Nothing seems wrong at first…

…Facebook forgives, but never forgets.

 

Then we boarded the plane leaving Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2)… (2.45pm local time)

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…and after a 6-hour flight, we landed at the Kansai International Airport (KIX)! (9.45pm local time)

Setting up camp at strategically located benches

The first order of business was to find the JR office to obtain our JR Takayama-Hokuriku pass, which I’ll talk about in the next update. What was interesting was how the man at the Japanese information counter we approached spoke fluent Chinese! We found out where we needed to go and made our way to the JR office, where a lady helped us redeem our JR passes. She also spoke fluent Chinese, conversing with her colleague in the language as well. She helped us make a few train reservations and we went on our way to find a place to eat our very late dinner.

“Pose in front of the information board, it’ll make a great photo!” said no one ever

Thanks to this very packed directory, we ended up at a diner that served Beef don. I ordered a big bowl with a mug of Asahi beer and it only cost (¥)700. It was simple but tasted really good! The Japanese are known for their attention to the umami flavours of food after all. No photos of that unfortunately as we were way too hungry.

We then proceeded to rest at our ‘camp’ of benches. We had a long day the next day, so we decided to try and get some sleep. That was at 12:00am. At 12:15am I realised I was not going to be sleeping anytime soon because I could hear a constant annoying ‘ding’ chime that resounded through the entire airport thanks to their loud playback speakers. I gave up trying to fall asleep and decided to take a walk around.

I went to the nearby Lawson convenience store, thinking I could get some water and batteries. I needed the batteries for my handheld sound recorder, a gadget I borrowed from my university to bring to Japan, as I intended to make sound recordings of nature during my travels. Finding the water was no issue, but I noticed there were no batteries displayed. The cashier only spoke Japanese, so before I went to pay, I tried Google Translating the word ‘battery’ and I got ‘denchi’. I proceeded to ask:

 

“Hi do you sell batteries here?”

“???”

“Denchi?”

“Ohhh denchi!”

The cashier then charged me for just my water and gave me back my change, so I assumed either they didn’t have it or I butchered the pronunciation of the Japanese word really badly so he just completely ignored my question.

 

I still couldn’t sleep after my little walk around the airport, so I made sure to walk really loudly when returning to ‘camp’. Everyone ended up waking up at around 2:45am and we just started playing cards.

Totally normal to in Japan..

We managed to pass time playing a couple of Cardfight!! Vanguard games. It’s the Japanese card game that allowed us to get to know each other. 🙂  After exhausting our brain cells, we finally decided to get a bit more sleep.

 

When we woke up, it was time to make our way to Takayama!

 

 

to be continued

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