I pretty much spent a day packing up my stuff in preparation for this trip. With the departure day devoted to non-stop gaming in a bid to complete the Final Fantasy X RPG. Alas, it was completed, just before dinner. The ending is good and that marks the end of my gaming career for the next few months. I am not bringing my PS2 along for 2 good reasons: Firstly, and probably the main reason why I enjoyed going overseas is the vast amount of free time I can give to myself, and it feels very much like a retreat setting. Since I can’t afford the time to go for retreats, going overseas is one way of going back into a simpler and laidback lifestyle with the absence of distractions from friends and urban entertainment. The time spent overseas is normally split up between work and traveling. Secondly, my bag seems to be overweighed.
Once I’m there at the airport, my baggage is indeed overweighed by 6.5kg. Thankfully, the SQ staff didn’t charge me for overweighed baggage. Almost half of my luggage contains books from the Japanese classes. Then off I go into the jet.
I have been allocated an emergency exit seat which has much leg space to stretch. Sitting next to me is an expatriate posted from Germany. From the conversations I have with him, he has to make frequent trips to Tokyo and Shanghai every 3 weeks. He is from a large automobile company, which I won’t mention the name here, and he lives quite close to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. Since I had been there 2 years back, we were able to easily relate our Europe experience throughout the journey.
It is quite a pity taking night flight as I will not be able to devote the entire time to the SQ in-flight entertainment system. I KO-ed after watching a movie halfway.
Arrival in Japan
Clearing the customs is quite a breeze in Tokyo Narita airport. My local Japanese colleague picked me up from the airport and we had to travel by the Densha first from the airport to the Tokyo central train station and thereafter transit by Shinkansen to Koriyama city. Here are some of the photos taken on the Densha.
There is detailed information on the current location of the train and is displayed at both ends of every carriage. The trains keep to a very strict time schedule and we arrived exactly on the minute at the station.
The main Tokyo station is large with 5 floors down into the basement. Hordes of crowds seem to be dashing all over place in this large transit station.
The Shinkansen is extremely fast and is able to travel up to a speed of 250km/h.
Once I alighted at Koriyama station, my fellow Singapore colleague picked me up from there. I checked into the hotel, place my luggage there and proceeded for lunch. We had Raimein at a common eating place close to the office.
Other than raimein, we will also have Bento set for lunch. They even have a website for it here. So access it for a sneak peek into the type of Bento available.
It is customary for the Japanese to introduce each other to the office on the first day of work. So I made my way through the 2-storey high building, getting to know the multi-national team there. They are from a diverse group of Americans, Indians, Japanese, Malaysians and Singaporeans. I won’t highlight much about work here.
At the end of the day, it is dinner time. We proceeded on to the usual eating place for our meals and it is Yoshinoya. This is also where I will be having my breakfast and dinner for the next few days. Yoshinoya is one of the cheapest dining places in Japan and they serve standard set meals. It reminded me of the meals I have in the dorm the last time in Japan. Pretty much the standard meals the Japanese have in Japan. Another noteworthy aspect is that the Yoshinoya in Japan is quite different from the one we see back in Singapore.
Throughout the rest of the 4 days and probably for the next few months, I will be taking the bus from the Bus Station. Here is the photo of the train station from where I alighted.
And here is a photo of the bus station which is next to the train station. It is very busy in the morning with lots of buses stopping at the berth.
I love to observe the differences between our Singapore bus transportation with the overseas bus transport. Firstly the strength of the Japanese bus transport is that they are very punctual, that is if they are not caught in a massive traffic jam or something. Secondly I notice the people board the bus from the back of the bus instead of the front where the bus driver is. They will tap their card at the back, which works quite similar to our ez-link system in Singapore and tap it again in front which shows the amount deducted. One main advantage of this back boarding and front tapping is that passengers will never forget to tap their card. If paying by cash, they just have to remove a ticket showing their boarding stop from the back entrance and paying the cash amount when they alighted. This system is quite feasible for small amounts of passengers on the bus; which is the case here. It is not as packed as Singapore buses which turn order into chaos.
For the whole of this week, I will be staying at this hotel which is a 5 minutes walk from the train station.
The rooms are small, here are some photos showing how it is like. After placing my laptop and books on the table, I found I have no more space to study. So I’m now kind of looking forward to moving into the apartment on Sunday, heard it is at least much larger than the hotel room.
This is my first weekend in Japan. With the morning spent working from hotel, the afternoon I met up with a fellow colleague in getting a local handphone. It is a vodafone V102D model which runs on a CDMA network. Thereafter I went over to the estate where all three of my fellow colleagues are staying next to one another. I visited each and everyone of their rooms and observed a big contrast between them. One is extremely untidy, the other is neat and the last one is just dark.
I borrowed a bicycle from one of them and went on to Aeon town which is 5 minutes by bicycle away. It is actually a large shopping area with a large parking lot in the middle. Quite similar to the Giant Jesco found in Johore Bahru. I went over to one of the bookstore where my fellow colleague recommended a Japanese learning textbook which he used while he was here in Japan for the first time. I bought all the available texts and went on back for tea break.
After that, he went back to his room for a siesta while I proceeded on bicycle to Koriyama City Hall. After cycling for 10 minutes or so, i approached an elderly passer-by and asked him for directions. Managed to figure out what he was saying and I proceeded on. It appears the City Hall is only 5 minutes away by bicycle.
I parked my bicycle at one of the designated parking area and made my way around the building. All the entrances are closed but the offices lights are still on with lots of cars park outside. It seems it is not opened after office hours but many of the workers are working overtime here.
After making a quite check with the map, I decided to move on the park directly opposite the City Hall. The stadium is located in the midst of the park. I cycled round the perimeter of the park, enjoying the cool breeze and the quietness of the place. Nature has not recovered from the bitter cold and all the grasses and leaves are still in its bright yellowish hue. I believe in a matter of weeks or a month's time, the green will be turning back with flowers blossoming all over the park. And when that happens, I will be there.
I cross over an interesting looking bridge which spans between 2 lakes. At one end of the lake is a outdoor musical theatre. While cycling to the other end of the park, I noticed a torii gate and temple structure up the hill at one of the entrance. I decided to check out.
This is the first time I am approaching a local place of religious worship since coming to Japan. To be in line with the local customs, I offer my respect to all the shrines in the temple. I walk through the temple grounds and is really amazed by the tranquility of the ambience.
Before the entrance to the main shrine, there is a natural well where visitors can cleanse their hands. There is actually a 4-step process which is detailed on the board next to it on how visitors can do it. 1. Using the right hand, hold on to the scoop and drip the way over the left hand. 2) Follow the same as step 1 except swapping over hands. 3) Blow the left hand 4) Wash the left hand again. I'm not entirely sure why they do step 3. But anyway, I went into the main shrine of the temple.
While in the main shrine grounds, I noticed the temple assistants dressed in a manner similar to one of the anime characters from Inuyasha. I recognised them as priestesses.
They are selling amulets and blessings for visitors.
After the temple visit, I made my way to another 2 more parks before heading back to my colleagues' accommodation. This park in the picture below has an especially more Zen and traditional feel to it as to the previous parks I visited. There is one that is devoted specially to youth and has more amenities. And the other one is more of a physical recreation park.
That is all for the week.