When I was a kid, I fell in love with the Sailormoon series. I loved it so much that everyone in school associated it with me, and I even cried several times when I missed it, or when I watched a particular episode where they all died and such. It was my first introduction to anime, and I thought that because I loved Sailormoon, I would probably like other anime, too. Eventually, I watched some, and then because I was such an otaku (or so I thought), I found this how to speak Japanese booklet at home and started trying to learn it, because I thought it was cool and all that.
Then I just lost interest, and never really looked back. (Except when I catch some Sailormoon episodes that they air here every now and then.)
Here’s the thing: I never had Japan in my bucket list. I have friends who love everything Japan and Japanese – from music to food to TV shows and all that, and every time they talk about it, I just nod politely and listen. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I just didn’t have it in my list of places I wanted to go to. I wasn’t as fascinated with Japan as I was with New York City, or Europe.
Then late last year, a friend called me and asked if I wanted to go to Osaka because there was a seat sale and they were about to book a flight. Being a Yes-girl to a lot of travel stuff like that (which is how I got to go to Jakarta last year in the first place), I said yes, and then ta-da! I had a ticket to Japan!
I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t do much research until a few weeks before the trip when we were working out our itinerary. We had five days there – less, because we arrive in the evening on our first day – and there was just so much that everyone in our group of 9 wanted to do. In the end, after we got our visas, we decided to go crazy over it: Osaka – Tokyo – Kyoto. All in five days.
Let me tell you: it was ambitious and achievable, but prepare for aching feet, long rides, and very quick stops. Because friends, three cities in five days = crazy. Even more so, Japan in five days = NOT. ENOUGH.
Time to let the pictures speak for themselves! (Photo dump!)
Osaka in one day is clearly too short, and I really wish I had the time to stay longer. I didn’t even see Dotonbori at night! :(
(But I was able to go back to Osaka before the trip ended, but I wasn’t able to go around much because we attended a CFC CLP. More on this later.)
And let’s not forget one of the reasons why I need to go back:
So after a full day in Osaka, we boarded the bus that would take us to Tokyo overnight. It was an 8-hour trip, kind of like riding a bus from Manila to Bicol, but with sleeper buses. It was a cheaper alternative to riding the bullet train/Shinkansen, but of course, it was longer. Then again, I was so tired that I slept the entire ride.
Soon, we were all, hello Tokyo!!!
After a breakfast at Yoshinoya, we headed for our hotel near Shin-Okubo station. It was a nice enough place, but check in wasn’t until 5:00 pm. o_O They allowed us to freshen up before we started on our long, long trip all the way to…
This was the meat of our first day in Tokyo: Disney Sea. It was my first time to go inside a Disney theme park. Yay. (Disney Land next time!)
Compared to Osaka, Tokyo feels like there’s more people. We left Disney at around 9pm, and we were in the train and there were just so many people even at that time.
After finally getting some sleep (BEST. COMFORTERS. EVER. in our hotel!), we spent our second and last day in Tokyo sightseeing and shopping.
After a looong day exploring, our group went on our separate ways to have dinner and planned to meet at the place where our bus would pick us up on our way back to Kyoto. This is where the adventure started. :D
Before our trip, I emailed our old CFC Chapter Heads who are now the CFC Country Coordinator for Japan, and asked if we can get contact details of the CFCs in Japan. They replied when we were there, and so we set-up time to meet the SFCs in Tokyo and the CFCs in the Kansai region. On our last night in Tokyo, we planned to have a dinner and fellowship with SFCs.
So we met with the SFCs, Darwin, Ann, and Edcel, right after we had finished packing and they brought us to Hakata Ippudo in Roppongi for dinner. Introducing the BEST RAMEN EVER.
Then we had quick stops to take some pictures of the places we missed visiting…
And then we were on our way to the bus pick-up area. Now, normally, on trips like this, I take on the responsibility of being the navigator, especially if there’s a train system involved. I like trains, and I like figuring out ways to go around in another city with maps and such. That night, though, I turned my navigator mode off because we had other people who obviously knew the place better than we do.
Then of course, we all got lost on our way to the bus pick-up point.
Apparently, we got out of the wrong exit, and the instructions online weren’t updated. Our bus for Kyoto leaves at 10pm, and we were supposed to board the bus 10 minutes before departure time, but it was already 9:55 and the bus station was nowhere in sight. I had no way of contacting our friends who were there, and so we had our own Amazing Race moment in Tokyo – running around the streets to find the place with our bags in tow, praying, hoping, and almost crying that we’d still manage to reach the place and board the bus.
We didn’t make it. We reached the parking lot where the buses were, and our bus had already left. By then, I was already a bit calmer – we had prayed, and well, what else can we do? We decided to try as chance passengers on the next buses – because we really needed to go to Osaka the next day to meet the CFCs there – so our new SFC friends talked to the dispatchers to help us find a new bus.
It was almost 11pm then, and we decided that if by 11:30, we won’t be able to board any bus, we’d sleep over at one of their places, and then catch the bullet train/Shinkansen to Kyoto the next day. I was prepared to spend for that, really. And to be honest, I was a little excited for that, too, because it’s the bullet train! And I like trains!
But then a bus arrives, that had four seats for us, and would arrive at Kyoto at an earlier time. Soon, we were on our way, and we settled down to sleep.
This is my favorite story among my Japan adventures, and it made me so much more thankful to be in community. It was the adventure of a lifetime, really, and we would never, ever have gotten through that if it weren’t for our new SFC friends. I had to hold back tears in gratitude when we were talking about it after, because they were all so kind of us, and it was such an amazing grace to get to know them. :) So, in case we haven’t said it enough – thank you, SFC Tokyo. You are a proof of God’s faithfulness and providence. :)
We arrived in Kyoto early the next morning. It was so quiet there compared to Tokyo, it was almost surreal.
It all worked out for the best, you know – us missing the bus and getting to Kyoto earlier than expected. We rode the train back to Osaka and met with Tito Sonny from CFC Kansai. We went to their house, where we would be hosted for the day so we can rest, shower, and eat breakfast. As it turned out, if we caught our bus and followed our original schedule, Tito would have had to miss hearing the mass with his family, and there wouldn’t be anyone to play the guitar there during mass. But since we got there earlier, he went to mass and left us at their home, and we got to rest a little longer.
God’s plan = way, way better than ours. :)
It was a glorious, glorious time eating breakfast and resting and taking a shower at our host home. After we had lunch with Tito Sonny and Tita Jean, we headed to Saint Mary Cathedral in Morinomiya to hear mass and to attend and share at CFC Kansai’s CLP Orientation.
Our time with them was short and sweet. We were preparing for another long walk to the train station, but Tita Anne offered us a ride – thank you from the bottom of our happy feet! :)
Normally, at the end of every trip, I always have that feeling of wanting to go home – because the best part of any trip is going home – but for the first time, a bigger part of me felt like I didn’t want to go home. Not yet, anyway. I felt like my stay in Japan was just way too short. There was still so much to see, so many things to do (and food to eat!) that I knew deep in my heart that I want to go back – soon!
I still don’t watch a lot of anime, even after I got back, and I don’t think I will ever get into any Japanese music…but then again, Japan isn’t just those things. Japan has won my heart, and I think I understand now why some people have them on their bucket list, and why people who go there keep on coming back. There’s something about this country that’s just so beautifully fascinating. :)
Plus, I haven’t seen the cherry blossoms yet. Or ate authentic sushi. And there’s Hello Kitty, Gundam. More ramen! More Family Mart stuff (believe me guys, their Family Mart is so fun!). And geishas, and tea ceremonies and temples. And we haven’t met all the CFCs and SFCs there, and spent time with them in their activities.
Yeah, I’m definitely going back. :)
ありがとう! Matta ne, Nihon! Watashi wa sugu ni modotte kuru!1