This September, I had a fortunate chance to go to Japan, attended International Student Seminar 2013 in Toyohashi, Aichi. This program is a joint collaboration between Toyohashi University of Technology, ITB (Indonesia), UTM (Malaysia), and HCMUT (Vietnam). ITB sent its top 6 of Best Students competition this year (yay I LOVE all-expenses-paid trip!). And believe me, these travel mates of mine were supposed to be saints, but we eventually went a little bit too crazy 😛
The program itself was a comprehensive one. We learned about high-tech research especially in the field of robotics and electrical engineering (DNA sequencing included), discussed about role of engineers in solving environmental problems in multidisciplinary groups, had 3-days 2-nights home stay with real Japanese families, and were introduced to Japanese cultures (ghosts and spirits!) and language.
Coming back to Indonesia, there are A LOT of things that make me miss Japan. Being a fresh graduate who’s waiting for graduation day and sorting stuffs about the future (yaya pengangguran banyak acara), I can’t help but missing the days when my mates and I walked TWO-FREAKING-HOURS along the midnight streets of Tokyo because we missed the last bus back to our hostel, days in Toyohashi when the multi-nation girls talked about Japanese boys, the discussion, presentation, tea ceremony, host family………….okay I could go on a very long list here, but you get the idea.
So here’s to cheering for the good days spent with (now) life-long friends, in between constant rant and occasional desperation about the upcoming Comprehensive Examination (ahem). Here are some of the things I DO miss from Japan:
You may think that there’re already a lot of Japanese restaurants everywhere. BUT MAN, IT’S EATING JAPANESE FOOD IN JAPAN, do I need to say more?? Hahaha 😀
I even made my own sushi for dinner in my first night of home stay, thanks to the Kawaguchi family! Tho I didn’t have sufficient skill at all, surely the 5-years-old Risa-chan could use sushi roller better than me, HAHA 😀
I also went to Sushi restaurant with my host family. I LOVED LOVED IT. Seeing the sushi rolling through the rail, and orders being delivered with Shinkansen that Kaito really liked.
Went to Udon restaurant with guys from TUT. I love Udon. The restaurant was clean and machines were everywhere (typical Japanese – in Indonesia we have abundant working force and labors). Udon is thick noodle served with choices of Tempura. Mine was tori (chicken).
Soba is thin buckwheat noodle. It’s usually cold and eaten during summer, but they also have the hot version for winter. I didn’t try this one at Yamaha cafeteria because it had alcohol in its ingredients. By the time we went to Tokyo, I tried the hot version at a local restaurant. Do I like Soba or Udon more? It’s a tie for me 😀
Kishimen is a special noodle from Nagoya. It’s cold and looks like the family of fettuccine 😛 It tasted reaally goo-oo-d, especially because I ate it in Nagoya Castle, so there was really a “Nagoya feel” in it. It was the first time for me eating cold noodle, and I surprisingly liked it!
I can tell you that my host fam’s the best. Why? Because even though it was hard to find, they granted my wish to make-and-eat okonomiyaki! 😀 I know it’s everywhere in Bandung, but as I said, eating Japanese food in Japan is like eating Nasi Timbel in Indonesia – you always fall in love with the original version.
The sellers were very kind Japanese man and woman. I love Japanese people, especially their attitude towards strangers like me. They gave Risa-chan a lot of cizu (cheese) in her okonomiyaki, too, which made her happy 😀
e. Green Tea Kit-Kat
YAYA LAUGH ALL YOU WANT :p The Japanese guys were really fond of teasing me about Kit-Kat Green Tea. But hey, it’s not just Kit-Kat! In Indonesia we only have the boring choice of plain chocolate and vanilla. In Japan, Kit-Kat is like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans in Harry Potter. There’s even Wasabi flavor in Narita Airport. I bought Pumpkin Pudding also, that tasted like… ubi jalar.
f. Other Food
Oh I can go on and on about how I love Japanese food. For example, here’s the breakfast that my host mother makes on the day we went to Toyokawa:
and miso soup. I LOVE MISO SOUP. I even went on a last-minute shopping of instant miso seasoning in Narita Airport before leaving for Indonesia. Oh! And the cafeteria menu in TUT!! They have Halal Food served daily, how considerate! Six of us (the Indonesians) agree that this is the best menu-set:
I’m talking about ocha (green tea) here and its variations. Japanese love green tea. I love green tea. That means I’m Japanese- well no, haha! 😀 My friend, Shabrina, doesn’t really like it. She said it’s kind of plain. It’s not plain, tho, but isn’t sweet either. We Indonesians love sweet tea, by the way. People from Yogyakarta often like it very sweet.
The best green tea for me was in Futagawa-juku Honjin Museum, where Aki-san kindly offered if I wanted to experience tea ceremony. The tea-drinking was started by eating a kind of special mochi, which tasted really good.
We also had tea ceremony in TUT, performed by guys from TUT Tea Ceremony Club.
This is also one of the best things I miss from Japan: green tea ice cream. WHY IS GREEN TEA ICE CREAM SO CHEAP IN JAPAN HUHUHUHU. In Indonesia you have to pay for like, US$ 3 for a TINY scoop of it.
Oh and there’s also a massive amount of vending machines everywhere in Japan!! You just have to insert some coins (100-200 Yen) and voila, you have a bottle of drink! It’s also quite handy to have small changes if you only have like, 1 paper of 5000 Yen for example.
3. Temples, Shrines, and Castles
Now that my stomach’s full, let’s explore these beautiful buildings. I’m a traditionalist at heart, so when it comes to visiting other countries, I always want to know about their cultures, traditions, and local habits. The Japanese preserve their cultures very well, and their devotion to Temples and Shrines shows how much they respect them.
a. Nagoya Castle
This is the Castle that I’ve seen in postcards, paintings, and large Japanese map that my twin brother brought back then after his exchange in Gunma. And yes, it’s magnificent in all sorts of ways.
The Castle’s actually been modified. Inside, there’s elevator and air conditioner. In each floors, there’s a diorama on the history of the castle (traced back to Tokugawa era), and observation deck on the 7th floor. We had a nice, energetic, funny old man as our volunteer tour guide. I respect him very much, since it’s uncommon in Indonesia to find volunteers in historical/touristy sites, and especially not someone as old as him who could also speak English. He might look old, but he was young at heart! I forgot to take picture of him, but thank you so much, mister!! God bless you! 😀
b. Osu Kannon Temple
This is also in Nagoya. Osu Kannon is a Buddhist Temple, and it was originally not built in Nagoya. Tokugawa Ieyasu decided to move the temple to Nagoya, where it now stands at the center of the town (correct me if I’m wrong).
Osu Kannon area is also famous for its shopping street. You can even find 100 Yen yukata sold in one of the stores. I wanted to buy a nice yukata set (around 600-1500 Yen), but I realized that I didn’t have enough space in my luggage. Do visit this area if you want to buy anything (souvenirs, etc.), even Turkish ice cream 😀
c. Inari Shrine
Shrines are for Shinto(s). Temples are for Buddhist(s). Well that’s the general rule, but Japanese go to both of these places. Inari Shrine is the biggest shrine near Toyohashi, the city where most of my activities took place. It’s located in Toyokawa. This shrine is guarded by fox, that’s why fox statues are everywhere.
Inari Shrine is one of my most favorite places in Japan. I don’t know why, but the serenity of this shrine moves me. Hearing the birds chirped while looking at the never ending shades of trees is just……………a bliss.
d. Yoshida Castle
This is the castle that’s located in Toyohashi. I didn’t visit this but I managed to snap a picture while Mitsu-san was driving on the highway.
e. Senso-ji Temple
Of course. Might as well be said the most famous temple for tourists. I visited this at the last day, where the Indonesians went to Tokyo by ourselves.
4. Parks, Gardens, and Sunset
We rarely find good parks or gardens in Indonesia. All the messy street sellers and homeless people overshadowing the beauty of parks (who often, in fact, make A LOT of money by being beggars, even more than salary of fresh grad engineer – stop giving money to Indonesian beggars! It doesn’t educate them!!).
Well, the serene beauty of very clean Japanese gardens is irreplaceable. You have to experience it by yourself to appreciate its true beauty. Take a look at these pictures:
5. The People
Ah yes, the people. These people are very modest, kind, and do everything possible to please their guests. TUT guys, TUT staffs, my host family, our unprecedented tour guides in Tokyo: Kitahara and Soichiro (in which, without them, we would be completely lost),
that cute guy in the airport (whoops), those guys that the Indonesian girls couldn’t stop talking about (and one of them is even now in an open relationship with one of us – no, not me), haha!
My point is, Japanese people are amazing. I was touched 🙂
This was my Japanese crush HAHA 😀
The energetic grandmothers at Futagawa-juku Honjin Museum who organized an Origami class. They’re EXPERTS!
One of them taught me how to made Origami. It looked simple but it was actually……….hard.
They made this from 600 little pieces of papers. SUGOII DESU NE!
Aand these are our Tokyo tour guide. Soichiro (most left) and Kitahara (wearing red T-shirt). It was really a coincidence. We were introduced very briefly to Kitahara after the tea ceremony. He wasn’t even a participant of ISS. He performed the ceremony because he was a member of Japanese Tea Ceremony Club in TUT. Adry posted “Touchdown Tokyo!” on Facebook, in which he replied, “Really? I’m in Shibuya now!”. WHAATT. We were quite afraid to start exploring Tokyo by ourselves, and now here’s a tour guide in front of us! Hahaha! He brought Soichiro with him who lived in Tokyo, so we were saved for the day!
So I guess that’s all. You can see that I DO REALLY MISS JAPAN. I’m not lying. When my twin brother came back from Gunma, he acted like “Damn I wanna go back”, and now I understand how he felt. After 14 days in USA, I badly wanted to come back home, same goes with Thailand and Vietnam. But after 10 days in Japan, I wanted to stay. There’s just a whole lot more things to be explored. And here’s to a wish that I hope will be granted: I want to go to Japan again with my twin brother. To visit our Japanese friends, and to be mesmerized by The Land of Rising Sun once again (or twice, or thrice, I won’t mind, haha!)
And I have to say the universe conspired to make me experienced this whole journey with these 6 crazy guys and girls who were supposed to be….ITB BEST STUDENTS, ahahahahah. Our jargon is BFF Sampai Mati, ckckck I miss those craziness.
Arigato gozaimashita, minna-san! TUT, UTM, HCMUT, Kawaguchi family, and all the people I met along the way.
Matane! May we meet again someday! 🙂