A week and more in Japan. I loved every second of it! The anime feels, toys, music, Kamen Joshi, Armor Girls, Kusunoki Mayu, Sweets Paradise, Pokemon Center, J World, Men Maru, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Ueno, Chiba, Doutonburi, Universal Studios, Osaka and Tokyo. Every part of this stay is memorable. The moment I stepped and felt the wind course through my body, taking in all of the surroundings, seeing all the locals and understanding their culture. I dare say, I’ve found home. Let me tell you all about it :)
Day 1: November 22, 2015
1:30 am (PHT)
I managed to pack up my stuff early. Pons told me that he will be at the airport by 2am, guess I have to leave soon. I will be accompanied to the airport by my sister and father, full support!
I still have jitters, plane and all. I always was afraid of heights. The most that I have conquered was 2nd floor. Thinking about hundreds of thousands of feet is not even close to that. My heart won’t be able to take this, I assumed. It’s almost 5:00 am, I’m about to board the plane :/
Huh.. I expected more anxiety from me. Apparently, even if I am unable to see the sky, my phobia doesn’t kick in. This is great! The clouds were awesome to look at. Like cotton candy floating all around. Although turbulence sometimes sets me off, I managed to fly through safe and happy :)
11:30 am (JST)
Brr, so this is the weather here? I love it! I was surprised when I came out Narita Airport and it was hot. I thought they were joking about the cold weather, but dang, 14 °C is so cold coming from a tropical country with an average of 30 °C. Pons exchanged his Peso while we were waiting for Renz, the value was less than when I exchanged mine. Around 20 minutes, Renz came to get us and we rode the train to Ueno. The trains here are very convenient. It’s such a shame our train system back are worn out and maintenance isn’t done properly. If it was placed here, it would stand out like an dragon in a farm (yes, I can’t stress that much).
We reached the place where we will be staying in Japan, Asakusa Fukudaya Hotel with the nearest station at Minami-Senju. It’s got a homey feel and I like how they did a tour in English. Well, even if it was Nihongo, Renz would’ve been there to translate for us. We left our bags in the hotel and started going back to Minami-Senju Station. From there we took another line to Tokyo and then to go to our favorite place of stay, Akihabara. We stopped at the place where Renz and Pons ate curry at, CoCoIchiban. The curry was good there, it’s the first time that curry was a lot more that what my stomach can store. We also met Renz‘s aunt this time which we soon decided to have desert at AKB Cafe since Renz and Pons were both AKB fans. Walking through the streets, I can’t believe that I’m seeing the place where I played the game, Akiba’s Trip. I did a quick turn and felt that I was in the game. Very exiting!
It’s dark, which is noteworthy since night time in the Philippines comes at 6:30 pm onward. Upon venturing out, we managed to scour the electric town. Being an anime fan, this place was like where my soul should be anytime of the day (provided I have the yen to buy stuff). Walking around, going in shops, seeing all the anime that I’ve watched and connected too were around, it gave me an elated feeling. It’s just my first day and I can honestly say that I am definitely enjoying my stay here. The whole afternoon, we toured Akihabara going in shops of anime sorts and also the Don Quiote (Donki as I will use after this time) there which gave us an idea on what to bring home. Because we were not used to walking that much, we were tired by this time and food was still out of question from the curry we had a while ago. But Renz told us that he wanted to go to PARMS and dragged us there forcefully (well, not exactly).
Well, standing crowd, I didn’t expect that. Nonetheless it wasn’t that crowded so I was alright to be there. When Alice Juban I think was performing, we started around at the left (near the bar where to get drinks at). The people were lining up on different places and shouting as the idols performed. It was a peculiar sight. It wasn’t what I was used to from a K-Pop fan. The audience was very entertaining and it felt like they had a role on the performance itself. I didn’t care much about it at first, until Steam Girls and Armor Girls came out. I heard the song Jumping Baby twice and it was stuck in my mind throughout the week. The crowd was extremely energetic somehow after watching for some time, I became impressed on how they are connected to the performance. When they cheer each idol, you see each idol perform better. This is what separates them from other idol group on other countries. From here on out I became interested with them, Kamen Joshi (Masked Girls) as they are called. We stood there for 3 hours + while Renz had his cheki (picture) with Moa-chan, his oshi (push, as in you push/support a certain idol). I saw one of the idols and immediately thought that she looks like my girlfriend. I did receive countless no’s from Pons by then. When he got back, we went home.
Day 2: November 23, 2015
We were exhausted, a lot of things happened in just one day. Though I love the way it is as 7 days is I think merely not enough for me to enjoy my stay in Japan. We called up my aunt because they wanted me to go there (Chiba) but they decided to come fetch us right at the moment since there will be traffic in the morning. We obliged, and waited for them. Around 2 hours, we were at the car and cruising the streets from Tokyo to Chiba. I couldn’t sleep that time, maybe just miniature naps, we got home almost around 4am and got comfortable in pajamas. We talked to each other and told our 1st day story and decided to rest because it’s almost time to wake up. We slept where my father slept back when he was here and I even used his blanket. Strange feelings crept up and I was immediately emotional. Maybe it played a part of me not sleeping properly..
We woke up, still tired from yesterday, but remarkably full of energy for the day. We got ready and tackled the first thing on my aunt’s list, Yakiniku. Since it was Mai’s (my cousin) birthday they included us on this celebration. We drove for a while from Oamishirasato to Naruto and ate at an eat all you can buffet with grilling. The meat tasted exquisite. Authentic food always hits home base, it will never taste like the ones sold back in our country. I had to make the best of it! I didn’t really eat a lot since it it was time constricted, but I had fun, everything was oishii (tasty)! We finished around 2pm and moved on to the next agenda.
Around Naruto, we also went to a branch of Donki there. We walked around the aisles and got whatever it is that we wanted (my aunt would pay; my friends didn’t want to buy anything out of modesty but I told them they shouldn’t be). In the end we didn’t buy that much, but they got some perfumes. I hope they use them though. We also saw some dogs there and some cats. Such cuteness! By this time, Renz was supposed to go to the Saitama Super Arena to watch the concert of Kamen Joshi. Due to time constraints, and probably having like 30 minutes left to watch, he decided not to go (with the help of me, Pons and my uncle; the masterminds haha). After our time at Donki, we got a call from the man who they wanted me to meet in Japan. It seems like he was fairly close to my father and my uncle and they were very good friends. They were also curious if he would recognize me as the son of my father. Moments later, we arrived. The place was peaceful. Every house had bush fences. It was very quiet, you can only hear the sound of nature, which was one of my all time goals in the future. I wouldn’t mind living here, actually, I’d love to live here. When I got out, the man looked at me and already pointed at me while looking at my aunt and uncle, as if asking if I’m the son. We hugged, and Renz told him that they were my tomodachi (friends). The grownups had a little chitchat while we were talking about how beautiful the place was and how it’s like a dream home for us.
It was already getting dark so we got in the car and said our goodbyes we had another place to go to, which is the AEON Mall, the largest mall in Japan as far as they have told us. By this time, our feet were already exhausted, but we may throw some time to tour Japan if we let that be a burden. So we continued on. We first went to Costco in the middle and got some goodies which are cheap. I decided to get the tuna and coffee we always loved at home when my aunt sends packages. We were surprised when we came outside, it was raining. So much for 8 °C, it was now about 4 °C. The coldest I have ever been, even 2 jackets won’t suffice. And talk about the rain, we also need something to cover our heads. We placed the items we bought back at the car and decided to go in the mall proper. Mai already had something on her mind so we three sat at the benches around the shops. It was a good 30 minutes before they got our of ALGY with some clothes. Next, we went inside the sports store for shoes to check for the shoes my sister was asking about. No avail, but my uncle managed to buy something for himself. We circled some more until we found Uniqlo and I bought a brown pants for myself. We waited a bit for it to be altered, we even wanted Renz and Pons to buy something for themselves like boxers or briefs (as comic relief) but they heavily obliged from shyness.
We went to Men Maru to eat ramen and my uncle and aunt told me that they regularly eat there with my father. They ordered their usual and I let them pick my order too. They warned me about the spicy levels and of course, being a lover of spicy foods, it didn’t really seem that spicy to me. I could go about 2 more levels than a spicy ramen. We didn’t waste much time at Men Maru because we had one last stop at a Karaoke bar.
The person at the bar was I think a Filipina since she knows how to speak our vernacular, which is immensely helpful. We started singing and drinking beer (Asahi), me, my uncle and Renz (he didn’t drink; only Pons). Me and my uncle belted out so hard! I even tried the song Faithfully by Journey.. Well it did not go good. My voice was so hoarse by the end. Renz sang a lot of Japanese songs, some of which my aunt’s family knows. Mitchang (my other cousin), even visited after work just to tease me. Yep, just with that in mind. We carried out through the night until it was time to go home. It’s already past 12am and we were exhausted again. After we got home, we started thinking about us going to Saitama tomorrow since I was a reaaaaaaally huge fan of Ano Hana (anime; Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai). Man, I cried my eyes out because of that anime, and currently it still leaves and empty pit of darkness on my heart that whenever I hear this song (while finding the song, I got goosebumps) my eyes just tears up. This anime is a masterpiece… Anyway! Well, we decided not to go since we were extremely exhausted the past 2 days, it might not help since we had to walk 4 hours to and 4 hours back just to reach the spot where Ano Hana was. It sucks, but we promise to go next time.
Day 3: November 24, 2015
We woke up late this time to make up for lost energy. We ate something like a patatim (braised pork leg) as our breakfast. And then we packed back the stuffs that we had and decided to go back to our hotel (which we haven’t slept at yet). The amount of bags that I had were three, which is insane. I was tasked to bring back stuffs bought there back to the Philippines. My body ached carrying 3 bags which were all so full. My friends were lucky to carry a small amount, I had to endure mine for 40 minutes. I said my goodbyes and told them I would come visit maybe next year since I have a multiple pass. As we came back to the hotel, we rested our tired feet but talked about where we should go since the Saitama trip was cancelled.
We decided to go to Sunshine City, so we took the train to Ikebukuro. It was a bit farther than expected as it took around 27 minutes for us to go there. A good chance also to rest my feet at the heater below the seats of the train. It somehow rejuvenates my legs. First thing we did was we went to Pokemon Center (oh boy, there goes my wallet). I was trying to find a Pika-hoodie for my girlfriend but it seems as though there weren’t any at the moment. So I chose to buy something else for her. I also bought a Glaceon plushy for me, well, because I find that cute! Erm, I also bought something for Sam since he gave me money to buy something that I didn’t find at Pokemon Center. Overall, it seems as though I’ve lost a lot of money haha. After that we toured J World. There was a character screen at the first room, there is a floating avatar of popular characters in an anime and when you touch them, they talk on different big screens around. We stayed for a good 5 minutes doing that. By the left side, everything was about the anime Naruto. There were also games where you need to balance and another one was to hit the colors lighting up. When we got to the middle part, we saw the J World Kitchen and also we could choose two other gates. We insisted to carry on since we just ate before we left Chiba. Second room is for One Piece fans (pardon me for not being one), there was a really big ship displayed! Then we saw shops situated inside the anime too. It’s like a haven for anime fans. Next place we went is for Dragonball fans. There was a screen there when you stood behind, it would show that you have power over 9999, that made me laugh (dang it 9gag). We found ourselves in a dead end and decided to turn back until we saw another anime that I wasn’t familiar with. It was Owari no Seraph, I tried to remember the name since it seemed interesting. Kuroko no Basuke was the next point and I started capturing photos since my girlfriend loves this anime. We found another anime after Kuroko, but I didn’t remember as of the moment which one it was. Anyways, the kitchen was near so we decided to eat some Ramen at J World Kitchen. The ramen was so-so, but the coffee I loved. As we wen’t out, we spent around 5 minutes more at the avatars. It was fun! As we got out of Sunshine City, we saw on the first building in the left that there was some kind of Cat Playground (Nekobukuro) I really wanted to go there but we didn’t have that much time left as it was closing. And I think it was 1000 yen per hour. Cats :(
Since it was dark, we opted to go home by this time. The pain on my legs were unbearable this time, I commend the Japanese people for being able to walk everyday with this. Well, it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s actually convenient to walk here than home where there’s too much smoke, heat and undisciplined people. But I digress, at Minami Senju we coursed to Mcdonalds to eat (yeah, very authentic right?). There was a burger here that was seasonal as Renz told us. We ordered that one, Roasted something haha. We ate back at the hotel then rested our heads by midnight. I slept after 2 am I think, Pons‘ snoring was quite strong.
Day 4: November 25, 2015
We woke up around 6am this time, I went to take a shower since we were going to switch hotels for this day. Sucks for me since I have to carry 3 bags and then one baggage. A lot of the times as I was carrying the baggage, I almost felt like giving up due to the weight. But I had to bring it back somehow. We reached Shinjuku after some time and found Hotel Mandarin after a few blocks. They told us the room will be alright in about 5 minutes, so we stood there talking to each other. Mind you, for the past 4 days, we were laughing left and right. Even my aunt and uncle couldn’t stop herself from our silly escapades and stories. I think that just makes us three a match. Back then they even asked us if we three fight, I told my aunt that Renz never gets angry, and sometimes because of how spontaneous our topics are we tend to move on from the topics that makes us agitated, so yeah, we don’t fight a lot. There are a couple of misunderstandings, but dude, who doesn’t? Woops, forgive my rambling, did I take 5 minutes of your time already? I guess the room should be ready.
It was a typical hotel, 1 big bed and a sofa that can be turned to a bed. There was only a heater, if we wanted it to be cold we might as well open the windows since it was 12 °C. Also, typical meaning expensive. We had other matters to attend to so we just changed some outerwear and got out back to the streets. Next plan is to go to Ueno, I didn’t know we were about to go to Ueno Park that time, they just told me Ueno. As we strolled the busy streets of Ueno, we decided to eat at Lotteria. That’s the time where Renz’ friend (from the group they have supporting Kamen Joshi) Andrew came by to say hi. Good thing he speaks English too as we might have another problem since I am not even close to fluency in Korean language. They talked about their adventures and the keepsakes they got from different concerts of Kamen Joshi. True fanboys. We took off after we ate and told Andrew in case we manage to fly to Korea, we will call him. He told us anytime and we could even stay at their place. I am planning to visit Korea too, but I am so loving my stay in Japan that I will still prioritize coming back here.
Ueno Park was near so we sauntered to that direction. Apparently, Pons wanted to buy a Panda (plushy) of some sort for his sibling. We were amazed that he knew where to go as when me and Renz were talking we didn’t see Pons around, but rather taking another detour. Ueno Park was huge, to my standards of course, and going through the park we also went to Ueno Zoo. That’s where Pons bought his gift. It was slightly raining this period so my hands were utterly cold, I had to put on my gloves and my hoodie. What’s awesome though is I create fogs through breathing, which I can never do back home. So I was like a kid for the whole Japan stay as I can create fog through breathing haha (don’t look at me like that -_-). Ueno Zoo, I never thought this was the place we will go to but nevertheless the experience was great. The Polar bear was sooo cute! Even the seals. The place was so big that just half of it, our feet were already giving up. We saw different varieties of birds (then jokes came out, me: di ako pinapansin nung red bird na yun, renz: gusto mong makakita ng red bird? hahaha), cranes, apes, and also penguins. By the time we reached the other half of Ueno Park, it was already getting dark (4:30pm), it sucks that I wasn’t able to see the Maned Wolf as I think they let it go back inside.
Even after walking a couple of miles, we went to some place that Renz and another of his friend, Lucas will be meeting up. That would be at Sweets Paradise (yeah, the title, I know haha), it was an eat all you can buffet and also, Armor Girls will be performing at the stage. The reason for the title is if you haven’t found out, this is where I became a fan of Kamen Joshi (Armor Girls to be exact). The ticket was costly but Renz shouldered it since he really wanted us to come there. I wasn’t really in a place to object (or I really just didn’t want to) so we got in. My boss from my work was an American so I really had lots of practice speaking in English so I also didn’t have problems speaking with Lucas. Though he was much of a fan than Renz that I was actually surprised throughout the performance. His oshi recognizes him from the performance, same as Renz, he was also recognized during the performance. They’ve been fans long enough to be known by the idol, which is cool. I just watched it whole while Pons was busy getting food and eating. I keep on seeing the girl that looked like my girlfriend and Renz did believe me partially, they told me her name was Mayu. When the performance was over, me, Renz and Lucas lined up for a cheki (picture with the idol, polaroid; so you get it immediately). Mind you that there were 2 acts at 6:30 and 8:30 so after the first one, we had to go out and line up to have another view of the performance. Lucas got 3 chekis, 2 autographed by his oshi and one group shot while Renz got 1 autographed and one group shot as far as I remember. I also got mine on the 2nd part as I was hesitant. Renz told me to try and if it doesn’t pan out, at least I would know for a face. We lined up early for the cheki, and when they wanted me to give a name, I told them Mayu-chan. Immediately they brought me in the middle of the stage and there was Mayu, she stared talking to me in Japanese and I had to tell here (by sign language) that I didn’t know how to speak in Japanese. She was a bit surprised and told me where was I from. I replied The Philippines and she was quite shocked. I buckled and forgot the things Renz wanted me to say. Also, I knew they were pressed with time so she urged the cameraman to take a shot. She told me hatu (heart; or so I’d heard) and then made a half heart sign. I obliged and thanked her a lot.. like 3 times I think. It was quite fun.
We got out and it’s very dark already. We circled around the blocks of Shinjuku but we didn’t find anything else to do. Lucas decided to go back and we were on our way back too. I did eat a lot of food a while ago so we didn’t need to grab some grub. Although amidst the fun that we had, we were in a bit of a pickle as our Sleeper Bus to Osaka was already full. We had to be at Osaka by 27 morning so we were really desperate. Back at the hotel, Renz was really stressed to get us a Sleeper Bus while me and Pons worked on getting his laptop fixed. Leaving it open though managed to fix it and we were at a better position. After finding different options and plans, we decided to sleep for the day and just think about tomorrow.
Day 5: November 26, 2015
This day started ended out with a bad situation because of the Sleeper Bus incident. We woke up 7am, started fixing our things and the normal customary things to do each morning. Then decided to leave our baggage at the Hotel since we had to leave and we didn’t want to bring them throughout the day. We didn’t have anything planned for today, so we just winged it.
We went to a near gyudon house to eat and we started chatting about what to do for the day. Renz needed to be at Shibuya this day also, but we were contemplating on places we needed to go as tomorrow we will be at Osaka. After talking and eating some great gyudon (I’ve never had a bad meal yet here in Japan), we decided to go to Asakusa and buy ourselves some Dango (sweet cakes).
We took the train and a succeeding subway and came out at Asakusa. The first thing that I noticed was there were a lot of people by the Senso-ji Temple. Somehow, I didn’t like that. I actually voiced that out throughout the time we were there. They took some pictures by the gate then we proceeded to the Nakamise shopping arcade. It closely resembles our tiangge here locally. Around the middle, we found a stall selling some Dango. I was singing Dango that time watching it from Clannad. It’s actually really good, such a shame for me that I didn’t have extra money for this time to buy another one. After that, we steadily walked to the Senso-ji Temple right by. Me and Pons took a picture here. Then we were getting a bit exhausted because of the people around and decided to get some air on the benches near. Pons also wanted to buy some Dr. Pepper so he cycled through the nearest vending machines. Renz and I sat at the benches and I even took photos on my phone, admittedly, of pigeons. Haha. We decided to go back to Akihabara since we wanted to double check some souvenirs as we might not see some at Osaka. By the time we were at Akihabara, I contemplated on buying myself an Urara Shiraishi plushy, figuarts or anything because I really like how she was in the anime Yamada and the 7 Witches (Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo). If I couldn’t find one, I’d probably go for a Kosaki Onodera (Nisekoi) one as that character was just so cute as hell! We had gone through each Sofmap that we could go through but we didn’t see Shiraishi anywhere. I’ve seen a lot of Onodera but they were all out of my budget range. I knew my friends were dying to stop searching as they always sat in front of the shop where I was searching at. I gave up after some time, we went to Donki in Akihabara for the last time too, I bought my girlfriend treats (Kitkat) and Pons bought a lot. We also got in Yodobashi as Renz wanted to buy an album where he could put all his chekis, I decided to buy thermal paste this time because my processor is overheating so much back at home. Hopefully it helps. By this time, we had to go to Shibuya since Renz was tasked to buy some perfume, I think, from somewhere.
We were at the train to Shibuya, they told me Hachiko was there so I waddled with them. The train to Shibuya took around 20 minutes or so, kind of like how we went to Ikebukuro. There were a lot of people here. I believe it was because Shibuya crossing is here, the busiest crossing. We didn’t cross it though, we just took pictures with Hachiko and got in the mall beside it. Renz was looking for a perfume and asked around for it. When Pons and I saw the price, we immediately looked at each other with inaudible gasps. Kind of like how you look at it in the anime, eyes wide open, closed mouth, very high eyebrows with a very very faint sound of “mmm!!”. Man that perfume was like 4 Mega Blaziken Figuarts! Pons and I laughed when we realized we did the same thing and we told Renz the same. He also had other stuffs to buy but we didn’t find it there. We wanted to sit down somewhere and we managed to find a Starbucks nearby. It was full so we decided to stay where there were tall island counters without seats. Renz managed to find us a sleeper bus by then but much more expensive. Since we didn’t had any choice, we continued on back to our Hotel.
As we got back to Suidobashi, we were right in front of Hotel Mandarin and we had an issue since Pons wanted to exchange his remaining php to yen, but it was 5 pm so we didn’t know if banks are still open. After them working it out, Renz trailed back to Akihabara to have it exchanged while we waited in front of the Hotel. I didn’t think it would actually take a lot of time. But around an hour and more he came back shaking his head no. But you know, holding the money in his hands haha. We went back to the train and sat on the seats around to let our feet rest. I also saw a vending machine of ice cream near and decided to grab some but the coin and bill slot isn’t working properly. I decided to use my Suica card and just adjust my fare afterwards. Pons and Renz bought theirs too. We had to go soon as the sleeper bus’ departure time was 12 am, we had to at least get there early and eat. It was I think at Ikebukuro where we got off the train and navigating which terminal line we should be at. Good thing it wasn’t that far from the train too! As when we saw the places where the terminals are at they were sooo far from each other. We had a bit of time now, so we circled the plaza around it finding a place to eat.
There were a lot of travel bars but we didn’t have enough money to go through them. We did find Saizeriya and it was pretty cheap there, the food tastes good also so it was a meal sent from heaven. It was kind of inconvenient since we had to bring our baggage and also my armor (3 hand carry bags and 1 pulled baggage; yeah, armor haha) and we blocked majority of the surroundings where we sat. We ordered 2 pizzas and ate them hurriedly, guess we were hungry from all the walking we did. I didn’t even get to play 2 games on my 2ds (Pokemon X) because of how fast the plates were cleaned. They even told me, “Erick, kuha ka na sige ka mawawala na yang pizza na yan” (Erick, go get the pizza right now, or else it will vanish), I sighed and gave myself a mouthful. We also had bathroom breaks here and went out around 11:15 pm. The bus was already parked at the terminal so we didn’t hesitate to run, we know how punctual Japanese people are. As we got in, it was hot, figures from the AC, and there weren’t a lot of people so it was better. We started fixing our stuff, charging our gadgets, sliding the chairs to provide maximum comfort. The bus took off after a while too and Pons was looking outside, while I listened to some music to feel drowsy.
Day 6: November 27, 2015
About 30 minutes after, the two were already sleeping, while me? Nope. Not even a little. I was half awake until around 2 am where sleep finally caught up, at last, I will be able to slee—- oops, there was a stopover at a station by 3 am. I woke up, it sucked, but I did have to use the restroom, so I guess it was a good enough. When I got back, that’s when I really slept properly.
Is that.. light? We woke up around Nagoya at around 5:45 am, it was almost time to depart so we arranged our stuff back to where it should be, yes also my armor. We stopped after we got out and got our baggage, the navigation system in Nagoya wasn’t as easy as like Tokyo, so we had a hard time finding the terminal, but Renz managed to get a hold of the place and we decided to have our breakfast this time. Since McDonald was the nearest, we ate there. Coffee and the vegetable burger for me, since there wasn’t a burger meal like this in the Philippines, I didn’t feel cheated by my mind that I should only eat food that aren’t found back at home. Around 6:30 am we traversed to the terminal but we were in another bad luck. The navigation gave us unclear instructions to the terminal and we got in and out of different places. The original place it tagged was the opposite direction of where we should’ve gone and it was already 6:30 am, the bus departs on 7:00 am. We were in a bit of a pickle. Maybe even more, this time, my body was on adrenaline. Imagine holding 3 heavy bags and 1 baggage running around maybe 2 kilometers just to reach the terminal. Good thing we arrived… 6:57 am, talk about buzzer beater right? My body ached as I sat down. I was also drenched in sweat by then. Amidst the happy times, we had hard times too, but it wasn’t enough to bring us down. We felt drowsy as soon as the bus started it’s course.
Welp, there goes our 12 hours, down the drain. We told ourselves that next time we go back to Japan we should choose between Tokyo and Osaka. It’s more expensive and time consuming if we had to traverse the two places. I’d figure we’d be in Tokyo most of the time because PARMS and Sweets Paradise is there. Anyhow, touchdown Osaka! We were actually at Universal Studios right now, but it’s half the day wasted already so we will join the fun tomorrow. We immediately set off to go to our Hotel at Shin-Imamiya. Since Suica wasn’t used here, we had to buy another card which is called Icoca. I’ve already got 2 cards from Japan that will make me hate being back in my local country haha. We took the train to Nishikujo, and took the Osaka Loop Line to Shin-Imamiya. The hotel isn’t that far from the station and also there was a Mega Donki around the place so it’s pretty impossible to get lost. It’s much harder to travel here though as not all places have english writings. As we got in the hotel, it actually looks like a normal home but with an elevator at the back. I also saw 2 labradors at the back, maybe the owner’s pets. They were sooooooooo cute! There was something shocking about this trip that we didn’t expect to have to do. We were suddenly told that the shower room for the men was a public bath. We all didn’t like that, but there wasn’t any choice left. We also saw that the men’s toilet upstairs was a squat toilet. That was the first time I ever saw that. As we got into each of the rooms, I opened my baggage and did all that I can do to make me bring less than what I have. I ate a couple of noodles and I stored clothes by rolling them in. When Pons saw my baggage he told me it looked very organized… And yet I still am over baggage from all the stuff. Around 1pm, we were done rebuilding our stuff I started dozing off. Renz and Pons were still in the room by then talking to each other and also surfing the web. I closed my eyes for some time, just to have a bit of rest…
I woke up and saw Pons asleep and Renz not around. I guess we were tired from all the things that happened since the before sleeper bus that we actually needed some time to rest. I woke Pons up and knocked on Renz‘ door. We collaborated once more on what to do and we set out to go to Dotonburi, the largest kitchen in Japan. It was kind of late but we still wanted to do something for the day. The only problem is, once we got out it was cold and dark already. And my nose got unbearably stuffy and I couldn’t smell anything. We were going to eat and I had a stuffy nose… Such luck. It was a short train ride through there, around 2 stations, including a short walk once down at Namba. There were a lot of stores, seriously, you won’t even be able to try the shops in a week’s time. Maybe even a month. We strolled for some time but we ultimately wanted to try the Takoyaki. There were also lots of stalls for that and we bought one right as we came in. Even though Pons had an allergy for seafood, he enjoyed eating. I on the other hand, was struggling since I couldn’t taste it. When we continued, I decided to just sit down on the bench (which is situated around the place) and let them roam since I wouldn’t actually enjoy as much as them. They bought a pricey jerky I think by that time. Feeling sympathy or pity as I thought, they decided to accompany me to the nearest Ramen shop so I could at least have hot food and hopefully let it ease my suffering.
We found one near the intersection and we started Operation Stuffy Nose. I ordered from a vending machine and got my food from the counter, it was pretty convenient. I immediately put a handful of kimchi (yes, handful; and yes, kimchi) in it. Boy, it was spicy! Even when I couldn’t taste, the sensation was burning. But I liked it. And the Ramen was actually good as I was halfway through, my stuffy nose got… unstuffed? Err. It was back to normal haha. Anyways, The two were slightly envious about me eating there though, but they wanted to save the space on their stomachs for other food. Once I finished, I was ready to eat my heart out! We circled the whole street and decided to go back the Okonomiyaki shop that they were eyeing for a while. It was a quaint place, wooden structure, it wasn’t cold nor very hot. The staff are always very respectful too. We ordered Okonomiyaki and one other beef meal I forgot and we were there for about an hour just chilling. The table adjacent to us had 2 korean couple fighting too. People around weren’t mindful though. As we got out, we were thinking if we should tour the place, but we need to be early tomorrow so we trailed back to the Hotel. This was actually the first time I could sleep soundly and I was happy that I at least got 7 hours of sleep.
Day 7: November 28, 2015
Woke up early because we needed to use the public bath. I’m still not comfortable washing with other people but well we had no choice. I didn’t had someone to shower with this time but as I wore my underpants a person came in to shower too… Success!! I was fast enough to avoid that. Renz and Pons hurriedly washed up too while I quietly fixed my baggage so it wouldn’t explode. I was quite excited today as it was Universal Studios day! I almost didn’t go since my pocket money vanished at this point. I was helped by Pons because of that and I am truly grateful for him. It was like going back to where we left off from Tokyo to Osaka. It was a short ride from Shin-Imamiya to Universal City. The wind was still cold and I loved the refreshing air in Osaka. As we arrived, we decided to eat at MOS Burger just outside of Universal Studios and we got some burgers and of course I ordered the Spicy MOS Burger because… spicy. Hahaha. We also tried to check if there are a couple of people who leave their utensils, plates and what not at the counter or if they are self service (most of the places there are, and we respect that) but it was foreigner friendly so we left it at our table.
The line wasn’t that long but the express tickets were already sold out. Although we initially decided to buy the 1 day pass as we wanted to pick where we wanted to ride (which will ultimately be only 4D rides; we all hated roller coasters). As we got in, we were handed a map of the whole place, since it was humongous! And I wanted to be their guide since I liked opening maps and such. Trying to be a cool dad here in the future. Haha. Anyway, welcome to Universal Studios Japan! The breeze was so cool and we decided to watch the nearest 4D ride/attraction which is the Terminator 2. While walking, we froze when a group of people were singing. Performers, perhaps? They were dancing and I guess introducing each performer one by one. Immediately our eyes grew big when one woman started singing, it blew our mind. It was so amazing! She was like singing in an opera. Literally goosebumps. It ended quite shortly, then we clapped and walked our way past the crowd mumbling to each other that the singer was really great. And here we are, at the Terminator attraction. The line wasn’t too long, we only had to wait around 20 minutes. It started with a woman talking above the stage, they were speaking Nihongo all the time and Renz spurts out a bit of what she was talking about. I guess it was about the story as came a part where we needed to go inside a huge cinema of some sort. It was actually the first time I ever experienced a 4D ride and it was exhilarating all around! The parts where it was like in front of your face made me jump at my seat! As I got out, it was like hunger for more! We decided to move on to our next ride, the Amazing Spiderman! Renz told me that this ride was one of the best rides in the venue. The line was a lot longer and we waited around an hour or so for those 10 minutes that I wanted to go on again! By far Spiderman was the best one I ever rode. Next in line was Back to the Future. It was around noon this time and we were rearing to have our lunch soon. Back to the Future didn’t have a long line, and it wasn’t as flashy as the ones we rode. It was frisky though as we couldn’t leave our stuff in our pockets. Next up was Backdraft, I believe Renz told us that it was like making the audience experience how scenes with explosions, fire, etc. were made on movies. I didn’t expect much from this attraction, but it blew my mind while I was inside. No doubt, it was one of the best attractions there!
I remembered my father telling me that we should eat Turkey Leg there since it was delicious. I was of course interested with that and have been going about it since we got it Universal and coincidentally, we actually saw a lot of people walking around and eating Turkey Legs. We were baffled since we didn’t know where to find those. In a fit, we tried to follow where the people were from since they ate the leg. Slowly but surely, we found it by the Jurassic area (which was still closed). It was around 850 yen as I remember but my father told me back then it was only around 500 yen. We bought one each, the line was actually one person to be called to the counter which scared me to death since I always needed Renz beside me in case they talk to me and I don’t know what they will be saying. It concluded fine though and we were having one of the best meals of the day. We circled around the Amity Village so we could go to the Harry Potter ride. Around the center was where we could get timed entries to go through the Harry Potter attraction (apparently, there were a lot of people going in so they needed to do a crowd control). After buying, we actually took the wrong route and got to the Candyland for some reason. My maps skills were weak! It was actually on the other side. It wasn’t time for us to go in as our time entry is 2:40pm. There was a big rock just at the entrance and we decided to rest there. My feet was already excruciatingly in pain by then, I still wasn’t used to walking so far. In a couple of minutes, we were in Hogwarts! Well.. Kind of. We saw the Butterbeer cask from afar and we thought we had to buy that. It was sweet for a drink, but I liked it. Sad that I can’t drink it everyday back at my local city. We walked around after that and then we saw the castle of Hogwarts. It was strangely a mimic of the movie, and I loved that I felt like I was really there. I took a couple of pictures and stared at the sight of this wonder. But we needed to ride the attraction here, which is as they say the best of the best. Upon entering, I saw the sign “Wait Time: 120 mins”. Holy shit 2 hours waiting time. I was dismayed but actually people really lined up here. It makes me sad and interested in a weird way. Let’s go and wait!…
The whole garden/courtyard was like a zig zag of lines just to accommodate people and as you go inside, there is still actually a few more lines. But the insides weren’t as bad as the courtyard. It was like a museum there and oh God the moving paintings never looked so real. I was contemplating what kind of technology they used for that. It was really amazing! Around the time we were about to ride, all our stuffs should be safely kept at the locker, of course, including the ones on your pocket. I was quite nervous actually, even though I wouldn’t see the environment we are on, I still feel like we will be around some kind of height from the ground. But I managed to man up and enjoy the show. The whole ordeal sent you to different places in Hogwarts from the movie, but it was mostly on the Quidditch match which we found so scary since it dove until your feet could touch the show’s ground. I find it funny screaming ahhh!! Paa ko!! (aah! my foot!!) around about every time the seat dove down. The struggle was great. When we stepped out, I was feeling the adrenaline rush from all that happened, it was really the best of the best. And the 1 and a half hour long wait was worth it! I even contemplated on lining up again, but we had other things to do. By now of course it’s getting dark. We needed to go to another attraction and we didn’t know where to go now. As we got out of the Hogwarts area, we were right beside the JAWS attraction. This one we were going to be on a boat and it was kind of exciting. We decided to line up, and it took only about 30-40 minutes to wait for the boat. They even said bye bye when our boat sailed off, found it weird, like there was something that’s going to happen to us. Which of course, happened during the attraction. I can never forget the time Renz shouted at my left ear when a shark suddenly showed up on the left side of the boat (he was at the leftest side). I liked that attraction too, the story was very linear unlike the other rides where it was a bunch of happenings in just one go. By now it’s dark, and we were kind of wet from the splashes and we didn’t know where to go next. I checked the map and wanted to go to the Waterworld, but it was a show and apparently there wasn’t a show that day, bummer. Around that time also I think there was a performance at a stage somewhere on the west side of the venue. Yet the people were compact till the center part of the map and we didn’t want to be part of that. We just decided to go in the souvenir shops to check since Pons wanted to get something. I didn’t have any money left so I just window shopped. We also checked outside Universal for some souvenirs. Ultimately, we were really exhausted and decided to go back. Good bye Universal! Until we meet again!
We opted to go to Dotonburi to have our dinner since it was quite good there. I think Renz and Pons wanted us to eat at Ichiran Ramen since the Ramen there was really good. So we took a train from Universal City, to Nishikujo to Shin-Imamiya to Namba. And here we are again at Dotonburi! I liked to walk around here, the stalls were full of food. I remember we grabbed another bite of Takoyaki since it was so good. When we went to Ichiran, the line was long and we were too hungry and tired to wait. So where did it take us? Back to where I initially ate Ramen. Mind you, the ramen was really good there. And I really liked the idea of eating there again. I never really remembered the name of that shop, but when we come back I believe I will remember where it was. We ordered the one with extra chasu pork, because why not? Haha. After our tour in Dotonburi, we trekked back to our Hotel. It was quite cold, I told them that I wanted to get some coffee on the way home. There was a Family Mart near our Hotel so we decided to buy there. By now it caught up to me that it was our last day in Japan the next day. It’s a sad day indeed… But this was my first and ever flight outside the country and I couldn’t start it better than this way. No idea, no experience, 7 days outside the country with my 2 best friends. I am just missing my girlfriend and it would’ve been perfect. Anyways, they said that there wasn’t any coffee left on the konbini near us. As we got back inside the Hotel, I decided to go out and buy me some coffee on a farther Family Mart, around Shin-Imamiya station. Consider this as a practice/experience for when I come back, it will be much easier for me to talk with the people around. I ordered a large brewed coffee there and this time it was correct. I swear, Renz was the one who messed up last time with the size… Kidding. Haha. Walking back, I took smaller steps at a slower pace. I wanted to take it all in, the feeling, the ambiance, the atmosphere, the place I wanted to come back to. I really liked it and I am considering in the future to live there too as long as I am able to get work there. I guess I have to study formally some Nihongo so there won’t be any language barrier. But that’s for mirai (the future) to decide.
Finally got back, drank a sip of my coffee as I am currently fixing my baggage once more. Renz was in the other room busy packing too. We also had to sleep earlier as we need to check out before lunch. And also, the problem of the public bath too haha. I believe I slept around 12:30am this time, much better than the past days with around 3am as the time I’ve slept. Probably from exhaustion, Pons didn’t keep me awake.
Day 8: November 29, 2015
Our last day… I woke up around 6:30 am, got my stuff and bolted out to the public bath. Lucky! No one around. I made the fastest, cleanest shower I ever did just to make sure I will be alone that time. Pons was sleeping as I left but when I came back, he was fixing his baggage. I told him the bath is clear so be there as soon as possible. By the time I finished fixing my bags, I was over baggage around 6 kg and my hand carry is right on the mark. Good thing I bought some prepaid add on for the baggage as I think it would cost much if it was there. Renz came in soon after ready to go, since there was a problem on his side regarding the flight, he had to stay one more day. This time we were to accompany him to his hotel. On our way, we stopped by a vending machine to get some coffee. I bought UCC Coffee since I really love the taste of their coffee, then breathed around because that was the last time I will ever see the fog on your mouth as you speak. It was really one of those simple things that made me happy. The hotel wasn’t so far from where we originally were, and it was a lot closer to Shin-Imamiya Station too. I have Renz also charge my phone while we walked around to find something we could do.
It was around 10 am that we decided to go to Mega Donki. But apparently, it was the casino below that was open that time. We started walking around to spend time and found a shop which sells bento meals. I ordered some chicken karaage because, well, it’s karaage. Quite cheap also, but it tastes good despite that. While we were full, we decided to stroll the streets beside cause it seems like there are a couple of stores that we might be able to eat at later on. It was a busy street. I forgot the name also, but there are lots of restaurants, and a couple that had lines this early. Makes you wonder what the food tastes like there. We moved on until we hit a small pedestrian. From afar, we decided to check where we’re going, and it seems like we are near a zoo there. Hovering around, we checked if there was an entry fee. There was one and since we didn’t plan to go spending somewhere else, we took another path, upstairs. We got to a bridge and you could see Renz holding an umbrella, since the Sun is up, and he’s a vampire. But this part wasn’t that fruitful, we figured we were going nowhere with the place so we decided to turn back. There was a different entrance to the street, and there we found more stores with long lines. When we came out to an intersection, we saw a lot of signs and what brought us in was a lot of these saying they had the best Okonomiyaki to offer. We weren’t going to pass that up!
We came in and ordered two kinds, Negiyaki and Monjayaki. I’m not sure how to differentiate the two, but yeah, we wanted both. It’s also amazing to see that they actually cook it in front of you one by one. Green onion here, egg here, flip, etc. And it’s rather a big serving for the price that it had. We also ordered a side dish of bacon asparagus with some potato. Sounds delicious right? And it is! We watched it patiently as it turned brown leaving my mouth very watery. Once it was done, we dug in! This was one of the reasons why I love it here. The food is always so great, the people are so polite and I can eat my heart out. When it was time to pay, I didn’t move an inch. They were counting their money and I was just there looking at them. It shouldn’t have been a surprise though, I already told them that I have no more money left, but they looked at each other with quite the shock haha. I think Pons gave Renz a heart attack. I remember Pons telling me that he would help me get through the last day. With our bellies full, we marched on back to Mega Donki. Surprisingly, there was a lounge there with a couple of sofas that we could sit on. And it was in front of 4 vending machines, I guess we could stay here for a while. While they were contemplating which ice cream they wanted to buy, I was circling around Donki to check whether I could buy something. My stomach was feeling uneasy by that time too so I had to visit the restroom a couple of times. I found a lot of stuffs to buy inside, pity I didn’t have enough yen to buy anything. I was also thinking of buying my mother a souvenir but I couldn’t find anything that catches my eye. I came back to the lounge and ate some ice cream of my own. I overheard them also eating 2 ice creams already haha. I tried to circle one more time and found a cute purse that could be used by my mother. I think I was short for around a couple of yen and asked Pons if he could lend me some. I got the purse soon enough, it was a yellow purse and it looked so cute! Anyways, there wasn’t anymore interesting things that we did here. We actually just rested on the lounge, sometimes napping a bit and then.
We needed to be around the Airport by 6 pm so we decided to accompany Renz back to his hotel and make our way through the train. We said our goodbyes, still feeling the emptiness of going back home. But this time, we are going to become independent, though Pons knows some Japanese while I don’t, it will still be hard when we suddenly lose track on where we are. We went to Namba Station soon after we left Renz at Shin-Imamya, and took a train that is connected directly to the airport. We were running a bit late in comparison as our flight is around 8:20 pm but we checked . I believe we sat on a local train station since it stopped a lot more times than we expected so we started getting nervous if we ever were going to reach the airport on time. Pons‘ quick thinking led us out of the train station around halfway through and got in a Rapit transit which skips a lot of stations and is much faster than the normal train. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any ticket and we were like foreigners that are lost and is very much irritating the others cause we cause havoc by being noisy and unsettled. Rather than getting out of the train, Pons just paid whatever bill that we need to sit on the train. They were very courteous and kind about it too and we were at least at a relief as it was quarter to 6 and we needed to arrive as soon as we could. We messaged Renz because we knew ourselves that something bad was going to happen and I guess nag dilang anghel kami (angel’s tongue; hope what you say comes true). We had a good laugh, we looked like idiots throughout that ordeal but we made it back at the airport.
It’s cool actually, they had trains here that carried us to where we needed to be. It is pretty saddening though that our vacation comes to an end. I never wanted it to end. But reality takes a punch and now I am calling my Aunt to say my goodbyes. Pretty sure I will come back! One of the best experiences yet. Good thing though, when we got through the check in counter, I already bought my prepaid extra baggage as I was over by 6kg, and from what we heard, out flight was delayed by 40 minutes. The new flight time was 9pm so another breath of relief. We didn’t of course had anything to do by this time but to talk about going back to reality, what our next plans when we come back because definitely we will. Looking at the door where we will get in hits me that everything will be back to normal. Not like I hated the normal life, I just was happy when I went out. Standard protocol when the plane came, it was slightly delayed but we were fine with that. I didn’t manage to sleep for a long time too and the descending of the plane was much harder than I expected (ear pain) probably because I had a runny nose.
Day 9: November 30, 2015
Welcome back to Manila! We were so tired. And the luck seem to ran out as our baggage was the last to come out delaying us more and more. I said my goodbyes to Pons who was going home alone while I went to where my father and sister were at. Of course I had the feeling of the ecstasy of traveling and started telling stories to them. About their culture, what I noticed, what I remembered my father told me when he resided there, what I love about it and when I am coming back. All these are done on my way home. I didn’t have a lot of souvenirs but I managed to bring back a lot of memories. I need to sleep though, because I need to work at 2pm. I can’t wait for the day that I step on the pavement and tell Japan, tadaima.