I’m a few days behind time because honestly I’ve been having too much fun! I’m at Osaka right now, but I’ve been scribbling away in my diary during my long bullet train rides (when I’m not too distracted by the beautiful views outside). Very looong entry coming up. Below is mostly rambles of my experience and of what I’ve observed thus far. And my writing isn’t linear. Too many randomness.
Day 1 Ohayo, Japan
If anything can be said about the Japanese people, it’s just how precise they are with everything. Their trains are never late. Never. I learnt that on the first day. How? I missed my first train out of Narita to Tokyo. It had said Ikebukuro. I didn’t know that it was still bound for Tokyo. Plus, it had arrived early. I was expecting it to be on time. Not earlier. So lesson learnt. Because of that, I’ve also learnt how to read the train displays at the station. The Narita Express and Shinkansen trains are very sleek and comfortable with more leg space than the flight I took to Tokyo – which is saying a lot. I’m looking at ya, Scoot.
The train passed by many sleepy towns on the way to the city. Every small town in Japan has its quirks. They also looked exactly like the ones stacked beside one another. Cookie cutter, except perhaps of a different roof colour. A lot can be said about uniformity here. It’s a conformed society. But I can’t say Singapore’s any different. Some houses have a dedicated tiny plot of land blooming with flowers right in front of the main door. Really pretty. The weather wasn’t as sunny as I expected in Tokyo. It was a pale grey, a little gloomy and the houses seem to blend in with the sad sky. I’ve noticed that most houses here look sad. Not a sad state, but a sad colour. Nothing ostentatious or loud. Beige or grey, and I think the rebels paint their houses a light blue, but still hoping to blend in with the sky, being as inconspicuous as possible. Another thing I noticed – their cemeteries are always on a very very small plot of land normally beside a few homes.
As I was jotting down notes in my diary, an European couple were in each other’s embrace. And then they were held by lovers gaze. Finally, they kissed. I couldn’t look at them without feeling a tinge of envy, and a slight pang of melancholy. I decided that only Mumford and Sons could make this weary, sad feeling go away (which was of course totally rubbish), I ended up with tears in my eyes. What was I thinking…going on a trip by myself. But this fleeting thought only lasted a few minutes. I’m on my fourth day in Japan, and I have to say, I love my company.
I had my concerns about getting to Hakodate in one piece. I mean let’s face it. I get lost in Mustafa shopping centre. At 1.06pm, the train announcement advised passengers to be ready with their luggage and belongings. I jumped out the train as soon as it stopped – which can only be said as the stupidest thing to do when one is carrying a backpack that weights approximately 10kgs with a bad right knee. Anyway, I arrowed right for the intended platform, half surprising myself that I managed to figure it out without losing my way at all. Japan has certainly improved – the main stations have English information now. I’ve actually realised that when you’re traveling alone, you’re so much more self-reliant, and observant, therefore, I impressed myself at not getting lost too often. I had 30 minutes to spare before boarding the much anticipated Shinkansen (this has been a childhood dream!), so I explored the underground shopping mall which is a sprawling underground complex. I trawled the food section, because I hadn’t had anything much to eat from the flight from Singapore itself. Got myself a riceball, a chicken stick and made my way to the platform. When my Shinkansen screeched in, with it’s hornet-green shark face zooming right past me, I was in awe. I tried snapping a few pictures, but because it ninja-ed by, the pictures have blurry effects; pretty neat.
The Japanese are extremely prepared – they come in with food mostly bought from the stations, and as soon as the train moves off, they begin eating. In Singapore, you’ll be fined $5,00 for eating. Ridiculous government we have. But then again, the Japanese are extremely clean and conscientious. They carry their rubbish out and separate them, too. Plastic, paper, cans and others. I can’t say the same for most Singaporeans. I was dying for a cup of coffee and even contemplated stepping out quickly to get one from the vending machine but dismissed that dumb notion as soon as it popped into my mind. How on earth am I to catch a bullet train if it speeds by me as I’m deciding coffee with milk or without milk. But luckily, they have train attendants who push trolleys filled with food and drinks, so I bought coffee from her. Very Harry Potter-ish! This is all still very surreal for me…traveling in a Shinkansen. Never thought I’d do it!
And halloooo Hakodate!
After a long, bone-weary journey, I made it to Hakodate in one, albeit, tired-piece. My host (and also the owner of the inn!) Susumu-San, upon hearing that I was only staying the one night at Hakodate, quickly said that he’ll drive me around Hakodate to show me some of its beautiful sights. As tired as I was (also had a migraine), I didn’t have the heart to say no. Two reasons. It would’ve looked very rude, the man was offering to drive me around at no costs, purely out of the kindness of his heart, and 2nd, I wanted to see Hakodate- had intended on seeing it until I realised the journey took 8-flipping-hours. So I happily agreed. Plus, the cold breeze helped a lot and I needed to stretch my legs, too. He drove me to Mount Hakodate, something I would’ve had to pay to get up, and apart from that, take a bus to the ropeway. Susumu-san also drove me to a spot where the Sea of Japan could be heard (too dark at night) crashing against the shoreline. He told me that the bright spots far away at sea were ships/vessels catching squid. The lights attract plankton, the plankton attract squids, and that’s how we get our calamari 😀 I also learnt that Hakodate’s official logo is a squid. We drove back at around 12.30am where I crashed immediately.
So far every Japanese has been extremely helpful and polite. In my diary, I had written down “I hope my lucky streak continues” and I can only say so far I’ve been super lucky, blessed and happy. Sapporo has been the highlight of my trip so far, though my one night stopover in Tokyo was crazzyyyyyy! Heard of Kagaya, anyone? Yeah…that crazy awesome izakaya. More on that later! Also, I met an amazing couple at Sapporo and next year, I’ll be visiting them at New Mexico for a camping trip! More on that soon.. I’m off to bed. I plan on going to Nara tomorrow! But I have so much to say – so much I really want to continue typing…oh..heard there was a typhoon in Osaka, a few hours before I arrived >.<