Where do I begin to talk about Japan?
Ahh lets start with the places that I visited while I was there. Landed in Narita, which is 1 hour bus drive from Tokyo…then landed again in Fukuoka the biggest city in Kyushu Island. Then from there I went to relatively “small” cities like Kitakyushu, Kumamoto and Kurume…but everything is so modern…
I stayed for ten days in Kumamoto…I spent most of my time there at the Hotel and Kumamoto university. But I was so fortunate to be able to visit Kumamoto Castle and Mount Aso, two of the most famous places of interests in Kumamoto. I visited Kumamoto Castle with a group of Indonesian students and researchers that stay there in a brisk and bright Sunday. It was so crowded. The castle was one among three best castles in Japan (this is quoting from my tour guide haha!).
Mount Aso is just half an hour drive from the city. It covers a vast area with so many mountains. Really could not imagine the stark contrast between the modern city and the natural site that I saw on the way to the top of the mountain. To reach the top of the mountain we took a rail car, really exciting! Unfortunately, it seems that I was there a bit too early. According to the tour guide in the spring, the flowers will bloom and the mountain is Scarlett Red..Oww…
Foods and drinks
Japanese foods are delicately presented. One of the traditional foods that I came to know is Japanese Noodle called Udon. In Kurume, my colleague took me to a very traditonal restaurant that serves a traditional Japanese food. See the pic below…Unfortunately I forgot the name 😦
There’s also Ocha: a kind of tea that Japanese drinks after eating their dinner. In hotels and restaurants they serve Ocha free. Its almost like an alternative to drinking water! It has a light tea flavour and supposedly good for your digestive system. For lunch I usually buy at the university cafetaria. I was so amazed cause the receipt not only shows how much I spent but also how many calories I have eaten 😀
Never have I been to a place that offer so many innovative “tools” that really made everyday life easy.
First on my list have to be the toilet systems! Well, you cant always find it everywhere in Japan. But in offices, hotels they have a very high tech toilet, that not only flush automatically as you stand (no chance of forgetting to flush hey :P) but also “wash” errr…well, just leave it to your imagination 😀
The bus has a very organised system. First take a small card showing the stop that you get in. Then how much you pay is calculated. If you dont have an exact change, dont worry, they have a machine that change coins and even 1000Yen note into smaller coins. So you dont need to receive candy in exchange for coins!
Its rainy season at this time of year. So people carry umbrella everywhere. When they enter a building, there will be an umbrella stands beside the entrance. Because Japan is a very safe country, nobody’s afraid that their umbrella got stolen ;). In the hotel, they also provide a place where you can wrap your umbrella so your wet umbrella wont drip on the floor. Very convenience isnt??
Unless you’ve been living under the rock for the last twenty years, you probably know a TV series called Knight Rider. No offense to David Hasselholf, the star of the TV series is a smart talking car called KITT. While in Japan, I had the pleasure of enjoying a ride in a car that has a navigation system. It was awesome 🙂 It can show and tell you which road to take. It can also inform you about the traffic congestion and other information. Infact, it was so useful as on our way back to Kumamoto city from Mt. Aso, there has been a traffic accident. My research partner immediately used the navigation system to find an alternative route…we ended up taking a very narrow road…but it was all worth it! We escape the traffic and get to our destination so much faster!
Of course it is not all good. While I was there, I can understand how Japan has a very different problem. In Indonesia we are facing over population, disparation between rich and poor, poverty etc…In Japan it is all a different story, it is all about the aging population. As part of the research I visited several hospitals and 1 clinic. Again, I was amazed by the facilities offered in each hospital. Most of the hospitals have information technology. In fact one hospital have implemented Electronic Medical Records that control what needs to be done to the patients. Ooops wont go into more details about work here 🙂 But another thing that strikes me is how “busy” the hospital was! The three hospitals that I visitied has over 200 beds, but the occupancy rate was so high. One hospital has 97% occupancy rate, so almost all beds were occupied. I thought, why? Japanese has a better standard living, but why so many people in the hospital? After a discussion and observation, it was due to the aging population. Most of the patients were elderly people that come to the hospital not just for treatment, but also to socialise…
Then, as expected…there were a lot of mishaps due to the language. I once took the wrong bus cause I failed to notice the chinese characters in front of the bus number 😀 Luckily the bus driver is more than happy to let me off at the next stop fiuhh…then I completely messed up the Air Conditioning in my hotel rooms cause the remote has all Japanese characters…Nothing was more daunting than the time I went souvenir shopping. I made a mistake in choosing some of the souvenir. I realised it after paying and the chashier made a mistake too…So we both struggle to understand each other 😦 luckily, with rigorous body language we managed to clear things up. I suspect that the cashier was not as happy as I was…
Actually there were two things that I missed out during the visit. The first is seeing Sakura flower…Yup, I imagine it must be so beautiful. Luckily, in Kumamoto castle there was this Plump Tree garden…and it starts to bloom. I was quite happy to see it. The second thing is, I should really try to wear a Kimono haha…two good reasons to visit Japan again I guess…
But, all in all it was a memorable journey. I saw and learn so many new things and made new friends. I was indebted in particular to an Indonesian couple who helped me so much. Thank you, you know who you are!
Finally…Pictures can say more than a thousand words. So I’ll end with these memories of Japan…Arigato Gozaimasu 🙂