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Thursday, December 17, 2015

A trip to Japan: My first impressions

A trip to Japan : My first impressions

as recounted by Siew Leng

The clock on the wall was ticking away in measured precision. The hour hand had already registered the hour of nine, but there was still no sign of the van which was supposed to pick me up at seven thirty for the trip to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2) at Sepamg.

The clock ticking away the minutes

I was pacing the floor impatiently when the mobile phone rang and a voice said,
“I am already in front of the Bukit Baru police station, but I can’t find the house.”
“ The house is near the police flats and not in front of the police station,” I replied, visibly irritated. “Hold on,” I said, as I handed the phone to my husband, hoping he would be able to assist the driver to locate our house.

The minutes ticked away. There was still no sign of the van.  Then just as I had dreaded the overcast night sky began to spill intermittent showers and at that moment the phone rang again.
“ I’m already in the Taman and now waiting in front of some shops.”

Knowing the driver was lost and unlikely to find the house in the deepening darkness, I told him to stay put until we came. My daughter hurriedly bundled my suitcase into the car and drove the short distance to the shops. On reaching the place we heaved a sigh of relief when we spotted a white van with its headlights on waiting at the shops.

On boarding the van I was glad to see the 15 seater van was occupied only by my sis-in-law, the driver and his wife. However, the elation was short-lived, as I found out that the driver had to pick up another twelve passengers at various designated pick-up points.
As more passengers began to board the van, some lugging humongous suitcases behind them, I wondered how we were all going to fit into the van. As I watched the driver rearranging the luggage at every pick-up point, a sense of anxiety began to creep in. I wondered if we would be able to arrive on time for our flight to Osaka.
With legs tucked in, and others propped on suitcases, we somehow managed to squeeze in the cramped space. Meanwhile, we eyed enviously at the driver’s endearing wife who was comfortably ensconced in the seat next to him. I felt a sense of relief when the van finally hummed its way towards the airport.  Although, it was an uncomfortably ride to the airport, we were grateful to arrive safely and on time for our flight to Osaka.

My first impressions of Japan

As my seven days travel itinerary included sight-seeing tours of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Tokyo , it was practically what my son, Lenny, termed as a ‘touch-and-go’ affair and hence I can only relate about my first impressions of Japan.

What impressed me most about the country is its cleanliness. Although, it was difficult to find public trash cans, there was hardly any trash on the ground and the rest rooms that we visited were so clinically clean that my niece, Evelyn,was so fascinated at its cleanliness that she could not resist taking photos of the rest rooms.

One of the clinically clean rest rooms

A spotless toilet bowl

A cute toilet cubicle for the kids. Wonder if there are visitors who may
be confused or deterred by the porcine drawings.

A board at a rest room indicating vacant and occupied cubicles

I was also impressed by the people polite and humble nature and the younger generations respect for the elderly. I vividly recall an incident at the Universal Studio theme park. When the studio guide noticed our   group of mostly senior citizens and having taken note of our physical condition, she promptly approached us and guided us to the front of the queue.  Everywhere I could see people lining up patiently and the admirable sight brought to mind an incident in a neighbouring country when I was rudely shoved away from a queue by a robust, young girl.

At the entrance of Osaka Universal Studio theme park

The people passion for cleanliness and their high esteem for humility can be attributed to the country's educational system. I found out that school children and their teachers had to clean their schools every day for a quarter of an hour. I also learned the public trash cans disappeared first in Tokyo as an anti-terrorism measures after the sarin gas subway attack in 1995 and have not been reinstated as the place were still kept clean even with the lack of public trash cans.

As we sat in the comfort of the Shinkansen (bullet train ) and it sped smoothly and silently along the countryside and arrived at its destination on time I began to reflect on our own transportation system which needs much improvement.

At the Shinkansen station

The ultra-modern train station

Commuters waiting in line to board the Shinkansen

Enjoying the ride in  a Shinkansen

As our trip to Japan,' the land of the rising sun', was in mid-November the day was pleasant, but the night was cold and the trees were beginning to show their vibrant Autumn hues of yellow, bronze and brown. 

'Land of the rising sun'

At Kansai Airport, Osaka.All thickly garbed for Autumn.
Lto R: Joyce, Boon Neo, Siew Leng

Lto R: Boon Neo, Joyce, Evelyn

The trees were starting to display their colourful foliage

A tranquil Autumn scene

The colourful foliage of a maple tree

The numerous Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples  set amidst beautiful natural surroundings are popular tourist attractions. 

Heian Shrine, Kyoto

Shitennoji Temple, Osaka. One of the oldest Buddhist temple in  Japan.
Founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku.

Todaiji Temple, Nata

In front of the Todaiji Temple

A pillar at Todaiji Temple with a hole at its base

It is said that those who can squeeze through the opening will be
granted enlightenment in their next life.

A trip to Japan is incomplete without viewing its iconic landmark, Mt. Fuji which stands at 3, 776 meters and is Japan highest mountain. 

At the 5th Station with Mt Fuji in the background

Mt Fuji summit was clearly visible from the 5th Station

The other places of interest which we visited

At the National Park in Hakone

Lake Ashi

A  replica of a pirate ship on lake Ashi

Heritage village

Bird's-eye view of the Heritage Village

Shops at the heritage village

Nara deer park

Evelyn with two Japanese girls dressed in kimono

After a few days of eating the mostly raw, but healthy Japanese food I missed and yearned for  the sizzling hot char kuih teow, the well-grilled satay, the piquant curry, the aromatic chicken rice and other Malaysian cuisine. 

Dining at a long, low table. Ada susah nak bangun selepas makan.

A wide array of Japanese foo


While walking along the street of Kobe Chinatown we came across shops selling dumplings, dim sum and other mouth-watering Chinese food and the sight made me feel more homesick.

Chinatown, Kobe

Mouth-watering dumplings 

A shop selling Chinese delicacies

Strolling along a street in Kobe Chinatown

After seven days it is time to say sayonara to Japan.

 Listen to Sayonara Japanese Goodbye on Youtube


  1. For some inexplicable reason, I've always been drawn to Japan and all things Japanese. It can only be strangely described as I yearning to go to a place where I know I belong. I have yet to visit Japan, but after reading this, the pull has become even stronger ! Dheema.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Dheema,
    Hope you will be able to visit Japan soon and share your experience with us.

  4. Nice posting! Blue skies and warm-coloured foliage, a picture perfect backdrop to traditional temples and thousand year old traditions. And there's no tradition more important than being polite and keeping public places clean!