Japan: Disneyland, Ikura, Smoking Rooms, and the Kindest Humans

When I flew to Tokyo, I was preparing myself to experience jolts from time to time. Many have said that they’re a widespread natural occurrence there. True enough, at a Starbucks at Narita Airport, I felt little tremors. The people around me were not mindful of it. So I acted naturally as if it did not bother me at all. I just stared at my cup of hot chocolate with mini-waves moving with vibrations. Anyway, I came to Tokyo to attend a training on “visual diplomacy” with topics on editing techniques and content creation.

Another goal while in Japan was to visit my cousin and her family. Her husband has been living as an expat in Japan for more than a decade. After a week of training, I traveled alone for an hour by train (shinkansen) to Gunma prefecture to see them. What’s interesting in Japan is that there are hardly any English signs! The language barrier is a real problem. To ask for directions, I conversed with the locals using my improvised sign language and the signature bow to express gratitude. I cannot forget this one time when I was looking for ways how to ride the train to Disneyland. I asked a couple of people, one was a person at a railway counter, but to no avail, because they do not speak English. Then I decided to ask an old man who was busily cleaning the walls of the tunnel. I was hesitant because he was focused. To my surprise, he welcomed my questions, set aside his mop, and left everything to accompany me to the right platform. It was quite a walk from his workstation. But he was so kind to lead me in the right direction. I was touched because he did not think twice to leave everything just to help me. More so, because he was already an old man and he was still working. The Japanese are known for their unbeatable work ethics.

What’s also remarkable is their motto, “customer is king.” One time, my cousin and I went to an appliance depot. I was looking for an affordable underwater digicam. Their customer service is outstanding. They never got tired of assisting me and answering my queries with a smile on their faces. Plus, they have purchasing conditions that favor the buyer more. Items can be returned with no questions asked. My cousin said that is what she likes most about them. How they engage people in their business pleasantly is their number one mark.

My colleagues and I went to this Japanese restaurant where everyone was eating a la Japanese style— lowered table, we sat on the floor, small pillows around us, and with movable dividers between tables. I enjoyed it. That was the Japan I saw in Karate Kid. It was there where I began to appreciate salmon eggs (ikura). Hehe… I used to dislike it and raw salmon. Well, up to now I still don’t eat raw salmon. But the eggs… wow! So fresh! They have this popping effect in your mouth and I love the oil that gushes out of every pop. 😀 Also, knowing the noodle lover that I am, I ate all the ramen I could eat, whether it was at 7-Eleven or small eateries that are aplenty in the city.

To complete their Japan experience, my colleagues went to the Tsukiji Fish Market. I was supposed to go, but they left at an unholy hour. I couldn’t get myself to wake up at 3 AM. So, I satisfied myself with their stories. They said that they saw the bidding of freshly caught fish. They cost a fortune. Their best takeaway was being able to eat those fresh fish and other seafood on site. Nothing comes affordable in Japan. It was good I did not go and had my breakfast somewhere cheaper.

The Japanese kind of discipline impressed me. There are designated enclosed smoking rooms on street corners because one cannot just smoke anywhere in the city. I saw office people going inside to smoke. They are very strict about this. I hope Malaysia would have rooms for smokers in the city as well.

The part of my trip I was truly excited about was Disneyland! Although I never got to try all the rides, I enjoyed it there like a kid. The Disneyland in Tokyo was unique in that, there are spots inside the vast compound with signs that say something like, “in case of a tsunami, this way” and an arrow pointing to where the people should go. It is, sort of, an evacuation area. Imagine how split my mind was while in the middle of a ride. The other half was like, “Oh this is great! Yeheyyy!” The other half went, “Oh my, where is the emergency exit?” Hehe…

The happiest place in Tokyo… Hehe… Welcome to Disneyland!
This is the Mickey train that leads to Disneyland.
Chocolate-smothered Mickey waffle.
Mickey and Minnie have a show.

The seven dwarfs roam around.
 In this castle is a ride that takes one to various “countries.” Of course, the song It’s a Small World looped.
In the Jungle Cruise, where the animals look real.
Disney’s staple afternoon parade and show.
Moana greeting the crowd.
Donald Duck, up close and personal. 😀
One of the group exercises we had to produce during the training.
English, please. As I wrote, it was hard to travel if you do not know Nihongo. This was my train station at Gunma where I met my cousin.

I noticed that the roads in Gunma, or in Tokyo, are small. Minimalist? I also saw many Suzuki Jimny 4×4 cars. I remember my old car back home. Maybe Jimnys are best because of their small size.
Window-shopping at Akihabara. It is one huge complex!
Tokyo cityscape near Roppongi Hills as viewed from my hotel window.
Tokyo has many shrines for their dearly departed.
Inscriptions like this can be seen in many places in Tokyo.
If I’m not mistaken, this is a way to a Shinto temple.
Japanese art is reflected in their parks and gardens.
A Gunma park after a show.