Memoirs of a Gaijin: Epilogue

Wow, that was some adventure. Do you have tips for someone who wants to travel to Japan?

Why thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed viewing our trip as much as we had fun experiencing it. Japan is a lovely country to explore and we barely hit a sliver of what it has to offer. We were there for two weeks and felt like we needed more.

Any memorable places that will stick in your mind?

Number one is seeing my friends after 3 years of university! Catching up was great:

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Definitely, The Golden Pavillion was a big one for me:

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– Osaka Castle is another one that I would put in my “must-see” list:

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– The one that struck me the most was Hiroshima:

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To see that many lives change at an instant was a very life-changing experience for me.

Wow. Was it hard to plan the trip?

Not really. As long as you have an open mind, Japan’s your oyster. Some tips that I’d recommend:

– Have a great pair of running shoes. Distances are far and wide and you’ll be walking a lot.

– If you’re travelling primarily within Tokyo, a Suica pass is a great investment. For those that have travelled in Hong Kong, it’s like an Octopus Card; multi-purpose card that can be used for payments beyond transit fare. If you’re travelling beyond Tokyo and city-hopping, a JR Pass is a must-have for the shinkansen. We paid $465CDN each for our pass, which was sourced via our local travel agency that specializes in Japan travel (another thing that I’d recommend).

– Have a combination of cash and credit. I brought $1000CDN, my American Express, and a backup MasterCard for two weeks. I found that my Amex was accepted everywhere except for one or two places but for local merchants, cash is king.

– Do your due diligence and get a hotel close to transit. For Tokyo, our Shinjuku hotel was 10-15 mins walk to the nearest train station, which sucks when you just want to head home and crash. Our Osaka hub hotel (Floral Inn Namba) was central to everything and would highly recommend it.

– If I had to do it again, I’d spend more time in Kyoto and make it my ‘hub’ city and do a two-day trip in Osaka. Kyoto’s landmarks are sporadic, while Osaka’s districts are really close to one another so it’s easier to navigate,

– Learn or understand basic phrases. Knowing basic Japanese will make life easier such as,

– Suminasen (Either ‘excuse me’ when shuffling around the big crowd or to get someone’s attention)
– Gomenasai (Sorry!)
– Ohayou gozaimasu (Good morning)
– Konichiwa gozaimasu (Good afternoon)
– Konbanwa gozaimasu (Good evening)
– Arigato gozaimasu (Thank you!)
– Hai (Yes)
– Iie (No and you make an ‘X’ with your hands to emphasize)
– Ryoshusho o onegaishimasu (Receipt, please)
– Nihongo/Iiego (Japanese/English)
– Oishi! (Delicious!)
– ____ gozaimasu (Polite way of saying things)

– Food is as expensive as you want it to be. You can eat like a king at Michelin-star restaurants or stall-hop like what we did. Randomly look at a stall and eat. Worked for us and it was quite affordable.

– I’d stick to one or two temples. After a while, it all starts to look the same (to me, at least).

– EAT. You must absorb the Japanese culture by eating because it’s so diverse and so good!

– Politeness is key. If you’re kind to them, they’ll be kind to you.

– Don’t be alarmed that you’re the only non-Japanese person on the train. You would not believe how many double-takes I got from being the only Filipino guy on the tram. At least my buddy looked somewhat Japanese… Even though he’s Chinese.

– Have a delicious final meal. Ours was an expensive peach but it was the juiciest peach we’ve ever consumed. It was mind-blowing:

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Hope you enjoyed our trip and feel free to comment for questions and whatnot. 🙂

Sayonara!

– Don

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