Japan in 15 days (Project Sakura)


3 years ago I was wondering how does it feel to stay in Japan. That time, I was working in a Japanese Lifestyle & Travel Magazine in the Philippines, arranging partnerships and selling advertising spaces for the magazine and website. I was very new to the corporate world and didn’t understand business since I just moved from TV Production and everything that I told my clients about the Japanese market (culture and behaviour) were all taught by my boss, nothing was from my experience and personal knowledge. It was good but I wanted something more- experience the culture.

This year, cause I wanted to tick off a few in my bucket list before 30, I gathered courage to travel Japan from Kansai to Kanto area. I didn’t have a chance to prepare and plan cause my family visited me in Singapore a couple of months before the trip but I think how my trip happened is quite a good itinerary for those who want to spend 15 days exploring Japan.

DAY 1. OSAKA (Familiarising & Shopping)
Namba, Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori, Amerika mura, H&M,

DAY 2. OSAKA (Sightseeing and Eating)
Osaka Castle, Osaka Castle Park, Umeda Sky Building

DAY 3. KYOTO
Kyoto Sky Garden, Kyoto Tower, Arashiyama, Hanami in temple near Gion

DAY 4. KYOTO
Gion, Maruyama Park, Shimogyo, Nakagyo, Shijo, Rokakku-do

DAY 5. KYOTO
Kiyomizu-dera, Nishiki Market, Honno-ji, Museum of Kyoto

DAY 6. NARA
Oji
Fushimi Inari Taisha- on the way back to Kyoto

DAY 7. KYOTO
Nijo Castle, Kinkakku-ji, Ginkakku-ji (+ Philosopher’s walk)

OVERNIGHT BUS FROM KYOTO (KANSAI) TO TOKYO (KANTO)

DAY 8. TOKYO
Marunouchi for Imperial Palace and standing sushi
Shibuya for Monja and (Kyushu) Ramen

DAY 9. TOKYO
Hamarikyu Gardens then waterbus to Asakusa
Ryogoku, Shiodome, Shinagawa

DAY 11. TOKYO
Shibuya

DAY 12. TOKYO
Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara

DAY 13. TOKYO
Tokyo Disneyland
Shinjuku

DAY 14. TOKYO
Odaiba- Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Dive Center
Roponggi

DAY 15. TOKYO
Breakfast at Tsukiji
Departure

Tokyo was longer because I wanted to meet some friends whom I didn’t see for a long time. But you can squeeze in a few days to see Kobe, Nagoya and even the places near Tokyo like Yokohama, Ogasawara, Izu islands and Tama area.

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30 Things Before 30

They say that you have a lot of time when you’re 20, that’s okay. 

But now that I’m half way done with the ‘glorious 20s,’ I say that no matter how much you try to get things right when given a chance to do or have it, sometimes, you just need a few more tries to get it… just right. And you got to do them and learn from them in your 20s. You have to fall, fail and be fooled (sometimes!) so that you know what suits and best for you. 

I find myself glorifying my good old energetic days lately- Trying almost everything and finding something new each day. When I moved here in Singapore, I felt like a boring old maid struggling to live life while coping up to herself losing each piece day by day. (Haha. Yes, an exaggeration but it’s quite close.) 

My diagnosis is I am putting so much pressure to myself that I panic for not living my life the way I know how it should be. So today, I’ll be back to be a blessing to others and making other feel happy about their lives. And since it should begin with me, I’m sharing some of my 30 things before 30 (I removed some too cheesy goals) just like my 25 things and looking forward.

1. Witness the beauty of Sakura and join “Hanami.”
2. Eat pizza or have wine/coffee while sitting at front of the Trevi Fountain.
3. Learn Flamenco in Spain.
4. Pay all our loans and raise funds for parent’s retirement. (Filipino thing! Haha)
5. —
6. —
7. Read a book while enjoying Maldives with a beer.
8. Experience & learn how to make mojito in Cuba.
9. Cook a dish for a house party.
10. Learn a new language and use it.
11. See the beautiful Angkor Wat.
12. (Party for Dad’s 60th!) Appreciate the Aussie way of life.
13. Eat Pho Ga in Vietnam.
14. Learn Cooking.
15. Walk in streets of Tokyo and ride a train.
16. Drink local beers in Laos and Germany.
17. Have 2 successful businesses.
18. —
19. Skydive.
20. Watch in open air cinema in Kamari & take a photo of the sophisticated Santorini.
21. Have a photo with Eiffel Tower.
22. Ride the Trans-Siberian Express across Asia.
23. Ride a gondola.
24. Live in a foreign country for 3 straight months.
25. Climb up the Great Wall of China.
26. Have a photo taken in Roman Street.
27. —
28. Host a house party.
29. Find my passion.
30. Maintain a good blog that I can always read and reminisce the good old days.


Last month, I just crossed out the 24th in my list: Live in a foreign country for 3 straight months.


Ohanami (お花見)

Photo taken by Tomomi Endo (April 2012)
Thanks for your never-ending support sensei!

I haven’t experienced “four seasons” (since The Philippines has only rainy and sunny days) and lately, since I’ve been surrounded by a lot of Japanese friends, co-workers and even Taku, I’ve seen the appreciation of the Japanese in the change of seasons that I find very admirable. I’ve received some emails from friends sending me photos of how beautiful the changes are and even when Taku went to a business trip in Japan last week, he sent me an email saying that he had seen “cherry blossoms.”

But my admiration to the Japanese traits and values was supported by the little fact that I’ve learned lately, that they even have the traditional celebration/party for flower viewing which is called Ohanami or less formally, Hanami (comes from the kanji for flower, hana and the kanji for “looking” or “to see,” mi which means exactly what it sounds like: looking at flowers). According to my friends, it takes place on no specific day which can be practiced any time during spring where they simply observe and appreciate the sophistication of spring – particularly sakura ume and momo blossoms (cherry, plum and peach, respectively). Japanese people do their good old parties under the picturesque cherry blossom trees with bento lunches and mats. They party with different groups- family and friends, and it usually involves a lot of sake.  I was amazed with the story that it is a job of the lowliest grunt in the office to go out early in the morning to the place where his bosses want to party later on that evening with a mat and stake out of a choice spot under the trees where he’ll sit all-day. How families try to teach the kids to appreciate spring is adorable also especially since cherry blossom don’t last that long.

Here’s the brief history of Ohanami by EastAsia Travel@Suite101:

Ohanami actually started as umemi, or plum blossom-viewing. That’s because back in the Nara period (710-784) – when flower-viewing is said to have first become a tradition – plum blossoms were gaining favor as symbols of culture and nobility. Ume trees had been introduced to Japan by envoys returning from China, who’d been enamoured with the Chinese spectacle of blossom observation and sought to impress Japanese nobles. By the Heian period (794-1185) ohanami had become a regular practice among the higher classes and was observed by eating and drinking outside. We also know from Lady Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, a classic novel from the period that by then cherry blossoms had overtaken plum blossoms in terms popularity and become the primary flower associated with the ohanami tradition.
By the Edo period (1603-1867), the practice of finding a spot in the blossoming fields to enjoy sake and special bento had become a pastime for the common people.
Many plum blossom-themed poems appear in the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest poetry anthology, and the fleeting beauty of both ume and sakura are recurring themes in classic Japanese literature. Along with singing, reading such poetry has become common practice in today’s ohanami celebrations.

                I like how Justhungry.com talked about the cherry blossoms and its leaves as food.

                I appreciate how Japanese people (especially my Japanese friends and colleague) appreciate little things and every natural process in our environment. I guess it talks a lot about how sophisticated and humble people they are.

It’s officially on my list of “30 Things Before 30” now; Cherry Blossoms are way too beautiful.