Third Time’s a Charm

At long last, I traveled to Japan last month for the first time in three years; the hiatus was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the Japanese government relaxed border entry requirements for foreigners on October 11th, I wasn’t planning on going to Japan because the prices of airplane tickets were higher than normal. However, a good friend encouraged me to take a trip to the land of the rising sun because I had been waiting so long for a chance to go there, and waiting even longer for ticket prices to decrease seemed silly.

I was both excited and nervous as the airplane touched down in Haneda Airport on October 31, 2022. This trip was different in that I would be traveling alone the entire three weeks I was there, but I did a lot of pre-travel planning that helped me immensely. Also, I met up with many friends along the way, so I wasn’t completely alone. I will share some highlights of the trip further below.

I’m still pouring through my pictures and videos. It feels like an onerous task, but I will create a photo/video essay of the trip in a different blog entry. All in all, I had a blast. I got a chance to go to many beautiful places, eat a lot of good food, have a lot of great experiences, and meet up with all my friends. I was sad to say goodbye, but I am looking forward to my next trip!

October 31 – November 2 (Tokyo)
I stayed in Tokyo for the first two days mostly so I could meet up with a friends who could meet me only on those days. The above video was taken with the DJI Pocket 2 camera that I bought three years ago specifically for a trip to Japan that I had planned previously (I canceled it due to the pandemic). The video is significant because it’s the first video that was taken with the Pocket 2 in Japan. I had dinner with two friends on the night that I arrived, and my friend Michael was kind enough to accompany me back to my hotel. Along the way, he recorded the video. On November 1st, I headed to Kamakura and Enoshima with a different friend.

November 2 – November 7 (Fukuoka)
I traveled to the Kyushu area for the first time ever. Rather than flying there, I decided to utilize the JR Rail Pass (two weeks) as much as possible to cut back on travel expenses. A flight would have been faster, but I really enjoyed taking the bullet train. I stayed at a hotel in Fukuoka and traveled to a nearby city each day on the bullet train using the JR Rail Pass. I went to Hiroshima, Kokura, and Kumamoto. It was surreal being at the Atomic Bomb Dome site. To me, it was a reminder that nuclear weapons are not a good thing. Although mundane, I did my laundry at coin laundries (versus using expensive laundry services at the hotel) and rode the bus by myself in Japan for the first time ever. Also, I met up with a good friend in Kyushu and in his hometown of Kokura.

November 7 – November 10 (Kochi)
I traveled to the island of Shikoku for the first time ever to visit friends who live in Kochi. I stayed at a different friend’s house each night, so I got to have various experiences of what it’s like to live in Japan. I learned that you are not supposed to wear slippers in a room that has tatami mats! Kochi is more country compared to other cities I have visited in Japan, but I really enjoy my time there, and I’m truly grateful for my experience there. It wasn’t too crowded like Tokyo, but it didn’t feel too country either. Another benefit of staying in Kochi was that city lights didn’t drown out the night sky, so I was able to see the starry sky as well as a lunar eclipse that took place while I was there. Other highlights included riding a boat, making paper, and visiting a cave that formed over 175 million years ago. My friends greeted and welcomed me at the train station; treated me so well; and were very kind to me. I will never forget the special memories from my stay there.

November 10 – November 14 (Osaka)
It was my third time visiting Osaka. I met up with a friend in Himeji and ate Vietnamese food there, then I went to Kobe for the first time ever. I went to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and ate wagyu beef with another friend. USJ was a lot of fun, but it was so crowded because I went on a Saturday.

November 14 – November 21 (Tokyo)
I returned to Tokyo to finish up the trip. I met up with several friends and visited both new and familiar spots. On the day that my JR pass was set to expire, I decided to use it to ride the bullet train to Fukushima (yes, that Fukushima), but I got off at a station that is located more in a suburban area, so there wasn’t much to see. I made the most of it though. I sang karaoke with a friend who I have known since 2018; funny enough, it was our first time hanging out with each other in Japan. I also went to DisneySea, a Disney-licensed theme park that’s located only in Japan. Although I had been to Odaiba three years ago, I wanted to go there again during the day. To my pleasant surprise, I stumbled upon the Sazae-san store at the Fuji TV station located there. Sazae-san is a very famous Japanese children’s cartoon that I watch regularly for listening practice.

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