I hadn’t seen a field of tulips before, so I decided to visit my favorite garden in Mie which is Nabana No Sato. This place changes the flowers depending on the season. I remember in autumn it had cosmos festival. And I think by the end of May, a new set of flowers will be planted as soon as the tulips have withered.
How To Go There:
Go to Meitetsu Bus Center just somewhere at the back of Nagoya Station. Buy a ticket to Nabana no Sato. Here’s the bus schedule. (*Schedule may change without prior notice.)
I stared at the view from the bus window searching for signs that would make me feel that I wasn’t in Japan anymore. There was only the greenery— not enough to give a distinctive feel of the city. I felt bored but at least I was sitting comfortably in an airport shuttle bus bound to Seoul. The passengers were a mix of Koreans and Asian tourists. It made me feel at ease that I wasn’t just the only foreigner. It seemed that the trip to my destination would take more than an hour, so I decided to get some sleep.
I traveled to South Korea for spring vacation. It was only an hour away from Japan and it was one of the countries I’ve always wanted to go to. I think I might even have more knowledge of Kpop culture than Jpop. Despite being one of my must-see places, I went to Seoul to get away. I wanted to be out of Japan even just for a moment, just so I could breath.
I got off at Namdaemun Market bus stop as instructed by the hotel staff where I was going to stay. The driver seemed kind of irritated because it took more than a minute for us to find my small luggage in the bus compartment. It didn’t bother me at all and even assured me I was not in Japan anymore. (You know how Japanese are very polite and very service-oriented.) In fact, it was one of the very few incidents that made me feel that I was back in the real world. And I loved it!
The Seoul subway station was one of the places I felt comfortable. I relished the noise inside the train. I liked how the ahjummas and ahjussis would claim their rightful spot in the reserved seating. I even liked how some people would slightly bump into me without the need to say sorry. I liked how they would rush into the first available seat they would see. I liked how they didn’t have reservations to sit next to each other. I liked seeing them express their emotions. I sincerely liked those things. Somehow, all those things reminded me of home, of normalcy.
I’ve been stressed for a while in Japan because of one thing. Being surrounded by people aggravates it even more. My visit to Seoul was just what I needed. I kind of feel like some of the things that I initially love in Japan are getting on my nerves. Well, I certainly know what I’m feeling right now is because of stress. But Seoul has truly been a perfect escape, even just for a few days.
The moment I stepped out of Shinjuku station, I got struck with homesickness. Seriously, I wanted to hop on the next train bound for Gifu. There’s just something about the Tokyo area that always makes me want to go back to the town where I live. Shinjuku is a place you won’t fall in love in the daylight. There’s trash everywhere. Of course, for some people this is a typical sight. But for someone who lives in rural Japan, it is rare to see piles of garbage in the street. It’s not the Japan that I know of. It just lacks the warmth of the people in the countryside. And I don’t like the feeling of being vigilant again. But I wanted to give Shinjuku a chance by choosing to stay here for a 3-day vacation. It had a negative impression on me considering that my only idea of Shinjuku back then was Jackie Chan’s bloody violent movie ‘Shinjuku Incident.’ Although I still don’t have a positive view of this place, it is fair to say that it has a beautiful nightscape.
I put on my white Adidas shoes as this is the only pair of sneakers that goes fashionably well with skirts, dresses, and suits. I hurriedly went down the stairs of my apartment trying to make it to the main street before the school hymn of the nearby school came to an end. It’s normally my cue to leave the apartment already or else I’d be late for work.
My workplace is a 30-minute walk from my apartment. I’ve been walking to school for more than a year already, so I usually make it one or two minutes before my log-in time. And that includes grabbing lunch and snacks in the supermarket next to my workplace. My apartment is situated uphill and my workplace is located in another uphill ground. It’s like going from one valley to another valley. On regular weekdays, I walk a total of almost 5 kilometers. I’ve walked in different seasons and I’ve realized that the different seasons play a big part on what I feel and what I think while walking.
Summer is unforgiving. The heat is intense and the wind does not even let its presence be known. I start to pity myself. My upper clothing is drenched in sweat. And because of that, I usually bring a towel and an extra blouse. There seems to be no point wearing make-up. By the time I arrive in the workplace, I look as if I’d just completed a morning workout. My hair is messy, which is enough to be stressed out for the day. Walking in summer feels like never ending especially if it’s an upward slope. Every turn I take, I would wish it were the last. And in every step, I’d repeatedly question why I placed myself in this situation.
Autumn is the beginning. I’d like to think of autumn as the start of good things to come. It’s much more comfortable walking in autumn. It is when the feel of the cold temperature seems so much more inviting. The color of the autumn leaves is striking—- may it be yellow, red, or orange. There is a gingko tree with dark yellow leaves alongside the street I pass by. I used to hate that tree not knowing what it was because its fruits would fall all over the ground and smell so bad. Sometimes I would see its owner cleaning up the ground with a broom and I used to pity her. It made me wonder why she would go through the hassle of sweeping the ground early in the morning. Sometimes she’d collect a total of four garbage bags full of rotten fruits. I didn’t understand then that that tree is like a shining star in the autumn daylight.
Winter is depressing and lonely. That’s when all the dark thoughts occupy the mind. It’s five in the afternoon and the light has retired early. I shiver in cold as I walk my way uphill with nobody in sight. Sometimes I daydream I am in the setting of M. Night Shyamalan’s chiller movie The Village. On rare occasions, I see some students on their way home. It sometimes boggles me how the female high school students can manage the cold in their mini skirt uniform whereas I, completely bundled up in my coat, scarf and gloves, can still feel the biting cold. But if I’d have to choose, I’d pick winter over summer because I still look exactly the same as when I leave the apartment—- make-up intact and strands of hair still in place.
Spring is salvation. The light after the dark. It’s the season that constantly makes me want to freeze time even just for a minute, so I could appreciate the beauty of cherry blossom trees that line the street. There are times when the wind would blow and the cherry blossom petals would rain on me. And in my mind I’d be doing a twirl in my cute dress. Or sometimes I wish someone would film me in slow motion as I gaze up completely amazed at the falling white pinkish petals. But, nope. None of that as I need to hurriedly get to the workplace. But my hopes are still high as I know there are two more blossom trees on the way. It’s only in spring when I wish that the traffic lights would remain red, so I could enjoy the view of the cherry blossom tree standing near the stop lights. And as I completely enter the compound of my workplace, another cherry blossom tree lifts my mood up.
Walking throughout the four seasons allows me to think of different things. It’s not just a routine to reach my destination. It’s a process that allows me to talk to myself and solve my worries. Sometimes I’d go home filled with problems that only people living abroad would face. In the whole 30-minute walk, I’m usually able to analyze the why’s and how’s of my situation. By the time I reach home, the negative thoughts don’t linger anymore. Walking is an invisible friend. It’s solitary, yet, it brings me solace.
I stood for less than an hour on my shinkansen trip from Nagoya to Osaka. I stood near the door exit and just enjoyed the sight of the rice fields and the small typical Japanese houses that we passed by. There were times when we got a glimpse of wide cosmos flower fields for a matter of a few seconds and all I could do was long for it and daydream about running across those fields. Every time I ride the shinkansen/bullet train, I can’t help but be amazed at the speed and convenience that it provides passengers especially those who get dizzy from long distance travels. After a short stop over at Kyoto, I couldn’t help but feel excited to arrive in Osaka in a matter of a few minutes.
I decided to go to Osaka to experience Halloween at Universal Studios (USJ). Halloween Horror Night was at the back of my mind for a long time already. SoI was ecstatic that my friend was more than willing to travel for more than six hours from where she lives just to go to USJ. She was more interested in seeing the Harry Potter attraction while I was filled with excitement to see the zombies roam the streets in USJ come night time. I was also looking forward to seeing the Death Eaters at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
My friend and I decided to visit Osaka Castle just before heading to Universal Studios. I was thinking that since we were going to stay until night time at USJ, it would be much better to see other sights in Osaka in the morning. I actually got confused with the train rides in the Osaka Loop Line. For instance, we were supposed to take the train running in the clockwise direction, but we ended up getting on the train in the counterclockwise direction. It happened twice, so it added to our travel time.
I enjoy more the area outside the castle than the castle itself. I’ve already gone to many castles across Japan, so I know what to expect. But since my friend wanted to see what’s inside, we decided to go in. The interior of the castle has been transformed into a modern museum. I was more pleased with the view offered from the top part of the castle where you can see some parts of Osaka. There’s also this modern building in the area with mirror windows that reflect the sky. I really find it stunning.
After a few hours in Osaka Castle, we headed to USJ. It was really really crowded and mostly everyone was in costume. I admire the effort that everyone exerted on their make-up and costume. I wished I wore a costume, too, but I ran out of budget. When we got in, we directly headed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the timed entrance. To our disappointment, the only available schedule was around 9 pm. We could not take that schedule because my friend’s bus departure going home was an hour after that. I could tell she was extremely disappointed and I felt sorry for her. Ooops, I shouldn’t have suggested going to Osaka Castle. So if you ever plan to enter the world of HP, make sure you go there the moment USJ opens just to be sure!
My friend and I just decided to roam around, eat, and take pictures until night time. We couldn’t enter any attraction because the lines were long. Waiting time consisted of two to three hours. Halloween Horror Night was such a famous and crowded event at USJ. When the clock struck six, different types of zombies came out. They were really scary and made us run away or scream when they came near. I was really satisfied with my Halloween experience. It was what I expected minus the Death Eaters.
Spending Halloween at Universal Studios with your friends is a good idea just as long as you don’t mind the crowd. You can wear a costume and admire other people’s costume, too. If you really stand-out, people would want to take a photo with you. My friend and I enjoyed having our photos taken with ordinary people in costume. They were such a sight to behold— interesting, weird, cool, scary, awesome!
This is probably my most visited place in Japan. I clearly remember telling myself last year not to go here anymore and instead spend money on a place I haven’t been to yet. But how can I resist this beauty?!
I’m one of those very few people who dislike Kyoto. If it weren’t for this bamboo forest, I don’t think I’d ever go sightseeing in Kyoto again. It’s such a crowded place that it’s so hard to see and enjoy the scenery. So this time around, I made sure to go as early as possible. On the way to the bamboo forest, an old Japanese man had a chat with me. The moment we entered the place, I slowed down to take pictures but he kept telling me to keep moving because we hadn’t reached the best area, yet. I think he told me several times especially whenever he noticed me stopping. I was glad he did because I would have missed the best view if I just wandered alone.
I kept on drinking the cold bottled water that I bought from one of the vending machines nearby as I patiently waited for other people who signed up to join the activity. The organizers were already there but we were far from complete. We stood outside Jingunishi Station as people from different nationalities started arriving. After I uttered a simple hello to each one, I kept myself busy by looking around or scrolling the feed in my cellphone. I just find small talks so superficial that I just couldn’t get myself to engage in it.
I was one of those who received an email invitation to join the event. As I had not been to Shirotori Garden nor participated in a ‘roudoku’, I was very interested to attend. I wasn’t just going to go sightseeing, but also learn about Japanese culture. I didn’t have so many opportunities to do this after I finished my scholarship in the university. It was also one way for me to mingle and get myself to socialize!
After a long walk to the garden, we were divided into groups. An English guide was assigned to us. As I am not such a fan of guided tours, I found it so long and dragging at first. The tour guide gave trivias about the place and even told us about a famous Japanese story, which I happened to read once at the school library. The volunteer guide was such a nice lady and I later found out that she’s working as a junior high school teacher.
After a guided tour of the garden, we were led into a tea ceremony house. The view overlooking the garden is beautiful. There’s a pond filled with lily pads and carps. Inside the tea house, we were served with green tea and Japanese sweets. I really admire the Japanese way of serving tea. Even though there were many of us, the master didn’t get tired of serving us the green tea individually.
After having the Japanese sweets and matcha, we were given a written copy of the masterpiece “The Restaurant of Many Orders ” by Kenji Miyazawa. The text was written in hiragana. Each one of us were assigned a role to practice. When the ‘roudoku’ or read-aloud session started, I was amazed with how our Japanese companions were so good with the activity. They were amazing voice actors. The session was even complete with sound effects.
The whole activity made me admire the Japanese literary art. There’s harmony with nature. Walking along the Shirotori Garden, drinking green tea, and performing a literary piece help you appreciate art and nature while at the same time calm and relax your mind. It is such an awesome idea to have the garden in the middle of the city. It is a perfect place to escape from the busy metropolis.
I hopped on an early train to Nakatsugawa on the first day of the Golden Week. I quickly grabbed an empty seat because I knew that travel time was long. What makes the way to Nakatsugawa distinctive to me is the presence of high mountains full of greenery. It can be scary to get lost in this area because there aren’t so many houses and people in sight. However, the scenery which is abundant with nature allowed me to relax my mind.
I saw a picture of a traditional Japanese village with unique rows of wooden houses located in a high mountain slope. The lush mountains in the background made the village even more attractive and conducive to peaceful living. It was like a scene you can only see in Japanese anime. When I found out the name of the place, I checked the nearest station and found out it was just less than three hours from where I live. I decided to travel early in the morning because I wanted to avoid the crowd from blocking the view of the place whenever I take a picture.
There were more than five people who got off at Narai station. The first thing I decided to look for was the wooden arch bridge, Kiso Ohashi, which was my point of reference for the village. It was nowhere in sight so I had to choose which direction to tread. Fortunately, I made the right choice. I saw the typical houses common only during the Edo Period. They are basically of the same style with that of the traditional houses I saw at Takayama and Magome-juku. I have to admit that the view at Narai-juku is nothing new anymore once you’ve been to other historical villages of the Edo era. I wasn’t able to eat at a local café or buy ica cream like I always do when I visit a new place. I just didn’t feel too relaxed during that time since I didn’t see the bridge, yet.
I think I walked back and forth four times just to cover what I wanted to do in that place. However, I didn’t see the Kiso Ohashi until I decided to call it a day and look for a place to eat while I wait for the next train. I ended up not eating. Instead, I followed the signs that led me to the bridge. It wasn’t that far although I had to extend my departure for an hour again just to fully enjoy the area. The bridge amazes me because it’s still functional even if it’s around 300 years old.
It was only when I read again the wooden post sign that welcomes tourists to Naraijuku did I realize I was already in Nagano Prefecture. Walking around historic post towns just give me a sense of calm while making me feel as if I’m in a completely different world. I guess I long for places that take me away from this modern society. As I rode my train back home, I let sleep take over me so I could escape once again.How To Go There:
From Nagoya Station, take the Limited Express (Wide View) Shinano train to Nakatsugawa. From Nakatsugawa, ride the JR Chuo Line for Matsumoto and get off at Narai Station. The total cost is 3,770 Yen. If you want a reserved seat from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa, you’d have to spend a total of 4,090 yen. Travel time is 2 hours and 25 minutes. If you want to lessen your fare, you can ride the JR Chuo Line Rapid for Nakatsugawa at Nagoya Station. Get off at Nakatsugawa and ride the JR Chuo Line for Matsumoto and get off at Narai Station. The total cost is 2,590 yen. Travel time is 2 hours and 55 minutes.
The reign of cherry blossoms has ended which means other spring flowers will have their time to shine. Most people flock to gardens or tunnels to see the growing wisteria. Wisteria has its own charm as a growing vine with purple or white flowers.Mandaraji Park is one of the nearest places in my area to see the wisteria. This park can be found in Konan City in Aichi Prefecture. I had a very smooth travel going to Konan Station. If you’re coming from Nagoya, it takes less than 30 minutes by train via Meitetsu Inuyama Line. By the time I exited the station, I saw someone holding a placard informing the travelers where they could ride the bus going to Mandaraji Park. I really found it very helpful as I didn’t know in which bus stop I was supposed to go to.I went to Mandaraji Park on May 4th which is actually Midori no Hi or Greenery Day in Japan. It is a day to appreciate mother nature. Thus, I found it befitting to see the blooming wisteria on that particular holiday. It was sunny but I didn’t feel sweaty at all because the wisteria vines kept me under the shade. Plus, the beauty of nature really has a way to keep one in a good mood.Actually, I’ve only come to appreciate spring this time around because I was more of an autumn person. But after being stuck in cold weather for many months, I find myself longing for the warmth of the spring season. The presence of flowers in the front yard of the houses I pass allows my mind to destress even for just a moment. Truly, colors and flowers have a positive effect on a person’s emotional state. Until now, it amazes me to see these beautiful flowers just within my reach because not all people are lucky enough to see so much of nature in the place where they live.There is just something ethereal walking through a place with hanging bluish-purple wisteria vines. I feel like I am in a fairytale world. Actually, Mandaraji Park isn’t the place where I really wanted to go to see the wisteria. My dream destination is the Wisteria flower tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Garden in Fukuoka. Since I ran out of budget to go to Kyushu Island, I decided to just enjoy the wisteria in Aichi Prefecture.
As I entered Mandaraji Park, I was actually disappointed because the wisteria vines that I saw were lacking in length. They were just crawling on the trellis. But as I walked further inside, I finally spotted the hanging wisteria vines which were much longer than the ones I saw at the entrance. Aside from the bluish-purple species, I also enjoyed the white-colored wisterias because they smelled so good. It reminded me of Sampaguita: the national flower of the Philippines.What I appreciate most in Japan is that even disabled people get to enjoy nature. I spotted one or two people in wheelchairs. It’s always a family affair whenever Japanese people go sightseeing. I really appreciate how this country makes it easy for everyone to access the local tourist spots.
Flowers are beautiful gifts of nature. They’re one of the reasons why I travel to different places. Hopefully, I’ll get to visit my dream wisteria tunnel.