Friday, July 25, 2014

My Favorite Place in Asia: Japan! Part 1 =)

Look at that beautiful thing and tell me that's not amazing!
If you are one of those people who grew up with anime and had sushi and bento box meals a lot, then you understand why I love Japan a lot! I lived in US before for 1 year as an intern. While there, I discovered I love to travel by myself and meet new people! I went to many place in mid and east coast like Nashville, Florida, Chicago, and New York and in west coast, San Francisco, California. I had so many things on my bucket list for a long time already, and when I got back to Manila, I decided that I have to go to Japan this year, so I did! Apparently, there were rumors that Filipinos were supposed to have visa-free entry to Japan by June 2014. Unfortunately, that plan did not push through as confirmed by the Japanese government. But that did not stop me from wanting to go to Japan! So I went to this agency called Reli Tours and Travel in SM Megamall, and applied for tourist visa with all requirements, and in less than one week, I got approved! Thanks to my friend, Sayuri-san for the referral of the agency. =)

Matsuya's gyudon beef with raw egg on top with Miso soup for those on the go!

I needed a totally different environment than what I was surrounded with, and I knew Japan would give me that! When I first flew to Japan, I already knew that there were many things I needed before I left such as knowing basics of the Japanese language called "Nihongo" (日本語). Also, I had an image already of what Japan would be like. Luckily for me, I watched anime as a kid and I also had a best friend from high school that was Japanese, along with a Japanese cousin. She taught me all the basics I know, along with the helpful phrasebook and phone apps. I have "katakana"(カタカナ) and "hiragana" (ひらがな) memorized along with a couple of "Kanji" (漢字). Japanese learners will understand this! I flew to Tokyo using ANA Airlines to Haneda Airport since it was closer to the city. I could not wait to go!
Even their Suica value card is so animated and cute!

After the 4 hour flight and timezone change, I got to Tokyo Haneda airport. Immigration was a smooth process as the officer did not talk to me at all. All he did was scan my fingers and took a picture of me. After that, I said thank you in Japanese. Once I got my luggage and went through customs, I asked the officer how to get to the Tokyo Monorail in Japanese and he directed me to outside. Once I got to the Monorail, I bought myself a Suica value card, which I used throughout the trip. Many thanks to the English-speaking Japanese woman who helped me out. It was a long train ride, but I finally got to the train station where my cousin was at, and I finally got to meet up with her! The first meal I had in Japan was Gyudon or Gyumeshi Beef Bowl from this place called Matsuya (松屋). It's so convenient in Japan because all you have to do is to order your meal in a vending machine and your change and receipt will come out to give to the server. Your meal immediately comes out hot and fresh!

That's the food ticket machine where you order from, open 24/7!

My first day in Japan was very quick. Because I arrived at night time, I was just struggling to meet my cousin Aiko up in the main part of Tokyo. When I finally got to settle down at her place, I just practiced with her my basic Japanese. She showed me around her area and I got to see the beautiful places in her district, Chikatetsu-Akatsuka. What I was surprised about Japan was how convenient it is! So many vending machines and Family Mart stores wherever I went! Along with that, it was super safe because I was walking all around the streets at 2 in the morning! But something I was shocked at was how small the roads are in Japan. Super small along with their cars.

Super small streets and roads like really small!
Despite the fact that so many places in Japan are so small, it's actually a nice and peaceful place to live at! So much to the point that I got to jog in the morning at 5am all around the place! I ran for 5 miles, but I got lost at some point! Hahaha! This was the difficult part, but I'm glad that my cousin Aiko helped me out when I called her up. It's so fresh here and people here are very kind. They will help you, but if they cannot, they will find someone else who will. Yes, you need to know even just basic Japanese to get around in this area, but no worries as many places like even the police station knows and understands basic English. I studied basic Japanese for 6 months prior to my trip just to be safe. One of the many things I enjoy about Japan most is food! Everything I tasted in Japan was amazing from the dango mochi balls they sell on the streets to the sushi, gyudon beef bowls and green tea!

These mochi dango balls coated in sweet shoyu are addicting!
*If you are a Filipino citizen and would like to go to Japan, Reli Tours and Travel agency is the most convienient and one of the most well trusted agencies affiliated with the Japanese embassy to get a visa. Average cost for tourist visa is around Php1,200. They have several locations within Metro Manila. Check out all requirements at Reli Tours and Travel

*For a fairly priced plane ticket to go to Japan from Manila, I recommend ANA Airlines. It's one of the most affordable airlines that flies directly to Japan, and it provides great service and comfort!
Check out affordable flights to Japan at Cheap-O-Air

* To try out the Gyudon or Gyumeshi Beef Bowl at Matsuya (松屋), there are several locations of this 24-hour restaurant chain within Tokyo. Check out Matsuya Foods for more information on where is the closest branch for you. For me, the closest location for Matsuya (松屋) was at Chikatetsu-Akatsuka (地下鉄-赤塚) station at the Ikebukuro (池袋) district.

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