Still blogging after 16 years
I LOVE JAPAN
Why do I love Japan so much?
How much do you know Japan?
This was the day I ate more fish than I ever did in my entire life.
So… the first time I went finishing was in Nagasaki last year. Junya, although being really thoughtful for the fishes’ feelings, really enjoyed it. He wanted to do it again so we went for a little weekend trip at Atami, Shizuoka prefecture, which we thought was a perfect getaway – sunshine, beaches, sea and onsen. And lots of fish.
If you haven’t already known, Atami is probably one of the most popular vacation spots for Tokyoites to escape the city a little, being in close proximity to the metropolis and boasting lots of hot spring resorts close by the beach.
While work has resumed slowly for me, this blog has taken a long, quiet break.
Since my last blog post, I have actually gone on many mini excursions with my family mostly within the Kanto region. Since it is private time and not the usual work trip, I have not dedicated much time creating detailed content over here… until I re-read my own book last night. It was almost like reading an ancient history of blogging in Malaysia, reliving the scenes when I spent a copious amount of time exercising my fingers on the keyboard multiple times a day. This blog was my best friend. Sharing a memory, that’s what I did, mostly for my future self, whether there are people reading it or not. Maybe I should do that once in a while. So here it is.
Anyway, I am happy that I am finally creating a new category for Yamanashi, for this prefecture located just outside of Tokyo has never made an appearance on this blog before.
What is Yamanashi famous for, you ask? Mt Fuji (although a shared prized heritage with its neighbours Kanagawa and Shizuoka), wineries, fruit farms, lakes (the famous Lake Kawaguchi is in Yamanashi), temples and more. Most parts of Yamanashi look just like the above picture. It was just a random spot we found on our way to the orchard.
Given its proximity to Tokyo, Yamanashi can actually make a good day trip destination if you have access to the convenience of wheels. Otherwise, it is also easily accessed via JR Tokaido shinkansen, local trains and buses, depending on the area.
Often, I explore thoughts within myself about the reasons as to why I love Japan. And I have realized that over the course of time and of different stages in my life, the reasons changed.
The first time I probed curiously into this theme of my life was in 2012. Today I’m writing an updated version of it.
If you have read my book (if you haven’t, you can totally still get it here), you already know my story with Japan. If my inexplicable obsession with Japan still puzzles you, here’s a list of posts mostly written for the purpose of my own soul-searching that may explain things better for those who are new here.
Sometimes even I feel bewildered by my own overzealous sentiment towards a country which my passport is not issued by. Yet the yearning for more of it was unstoppable. It got only greedier, wilder, fiercer, stronger, deeper.
A disclaimer should also be made up front that every word regarding Japan that comes directly from me is spoken with straight up unapologetic bias. This is real cult. If you weren’t sure if I was serious about it, you are now.
Revisiting what I have written a decade ago confirmed that I my feelings for Japan have indeed changed, a lot. Like most people, my irrevocable love affair with Japan started with pop culture. Wondrous anime characters who drag you into fantasyland. Heart-wrenching dramas. Music full of kickass attitude. And then I accidentally got pulled into the bewitching fashion scene. Beautiful people. Ostentatious get-ups. False lashes extravaganza. Endless parties and events. And then the demand for inbound tourism began to rise and before I knew it I was conquering prefectures across the archipelago. This went on until February, 2020.
The coronavirus put all of this to a rude, abrupt halt.
Before I elaborate, I have a confession to make. I didn’t own this straight up on social media because I knew judgement would come my way.
Here it is.
It’s been a while since I updated.
Things have been crazy in this unusual time, as it is for most people I believe. I am mostly spending my time being an assistant teacher to my own children and unwillingly avoiding having an outdoorsy life on purpose and basically just extending my social distancing to also social media distancing. It helps a little to cope with this whole coronavirus madness staying away from the ever overwhelming media a little. I feel more strongly than ever that the media industry should be more responsible with what’s put out to be consumed as it directly affects the emotions of an audience reading/watching it.
But things have been looking up here in Japan. The TV news stop playing dreary, suspenseful background music and instead more focus is put on the recovery journey against upbeat melody. It makes me feel so much better. Today, the state of emergency has been lifted for all 47 prefectures since it was announced 1.5 months ago. Although this is no way near the end of the covid-19 war, I am just glad that things are somewhat back to what resembles a normalcy, and I just want to see people out in the sun again, to see the smiles again, be it behind masks or not.
Anyway, I have also convinced myself that I have taken a long enough break from blogging and here’s my attempt to restart my Japan journey, starting with a throwback of our family trip back to Nagasaki last Christmas, December 2019.
We spent two nights in Hotel Nanpuro, a traditional ryokan recently converted into a stylish beach resort. The kids had such a great time that I told myself that I would share this wonderful accommodation perfect for a family getaway sometime, and here it is.
If you are allergic to the ubiquitous mouthless cat, this post is probably not the best read for you, but still, I assure you that you are still able to pick up something useful, if Japan in general is a topic on your list of interest.
For people who have followed me long enough, you probably know that I have an insane collection of Gotochi Kitty. For people who don’t, here’s what Gotochi Kitty is:
(photo taken by Junya)
Gotochi in Japanese is 御当地, meaning “local” (in a very polite, probably respectful way) in English. Kitty is of course, short for the most famous feline character that has turned into a multi-million business by Sanrio – Hello Kitty.
One of my least explored regions in Japan is Kyushu, and I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to go around different prefectures in Kyushu this February!
Here’s my Kyushu Guide using JR Kyushu Rail Pass!
I’m assuming that most of you who are reading this are somewhat, to a mild extent, a Japan maniac like me so I am recommending this itinerary using JR Kyushu Rail Pass –
This final chapter of our snow time adventures takes us to some of the best ski resorts found within Nagano Prefecture. Locally and internationally known as the ultimate winter holiday spot in the main island of Japan, Nagano truly needs no further introduction for snow sports enthusiasts. However, for those unfamiliar with even the concept of winter in general, this introduction of the prefecture’s most popular ski resorts in Yamanouchi and Hakuba may just be helpful in your future travel plans. Let’s go skiing!
The next chapter of our journey led us to this prefecture in central Japan known as a winter sports destination with its majestic mountains and bountiful hot springs. The 1998 Nagano Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games brought its name to worldwide attention and it has never looked back since. Today, we’ll show how you can explore this scenic prefecture without getting active in sports – unless you count shopping as one!
Visit every attractions featured on this course or take a pick to slot it into your itinerary – the choice is yours.
These are recommendations to complement your ski trips or when your travel companions are into winter sports but you’d rather take it easy during the holiday. Now, welcome to Nagano Prefecture ❤
Growing up in our tropical climate, seeing and touching snow for the first time is always a memorable moment. Terribly exciting, in fact, that often we forget to wear gloves and freeze our hands off! My past encounters with snow have not always been intentional though; it happened by chance either too early or too late in the season to fully enjoy it.
This trip completely changed my perception of winter holidays and we hope, others too. With a little bit of planning and preparing, snow time can be so much fun in Japan even if it’s your first time. Perhaps especially so when it’s your first time! All these years, autumn has always been my favourite time to visit Japan but now I’m not so convinced anymore. Let us take you through our recent snow journey in different prefectures and discover the joy of winter in our favourite destination – Japan.
While Hokkaido and Tohoku are a sure bet for some winter fun given its location on Japan’s archipelago, those who are venturing Central Japan and are looking for some frosty pleasure may find just the right elements in the two prefectures we are exploring today too: Ishikawa & Niigata (with the latter also fondly nicknamed “Snow Country” by the nation).
Where is Chubu Region (中部地方)? Chubu literally means “the central part” and as the name suggests it is located right in the middle of Japan’s main island.
Guess what? Even if you have not been there, chances are you have just completely sped through the whole region dozing off comfortably as the Nozomi shinkansen you were in whooshed from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka station. That’s right, Chubu is the area that many travellers often missed out as they shuttle between Kanto and Kansai but will make an absolutely wonderful odyssey if you are willing to spare some time exploring.