Sunday, November 10, 2013

My First Trip to Japan for JENESYS 2.0 Part 2: The Commencement!

A couple of days prior to our departure, we were invited to attend an orientation to prepare ourselves for our new roles as ambassadors of goodwill. I remember arriving 30 minutes late, and everyone’s eyes were on me as I searched for the least attention-grabbing seat (but ended up sitting in front). Right after that, the lecturer emphasized the importance of being on-time in Japan. Awkwaaaard.

I don’t usually arrive late for meetings (Well, except if t’s just with my friends. Hehe.), so it was quite frustrating. I blame the world-famous Manila traffic.

The orientation lasted for about 4 hours, and they even prepared a buffet dinner for us. We were informed of a few things to take note of when dealing with people of diverse cultures. There was also a short lecture on Filipino culture, just to remind us of some things we SHOULD know as representatives of our country. One of the staff from Japan Embassy who was also there that day was actually a coordinator for the JPOP Anime Singing Contest. She recognized me right away. She was like, “Oh! I’ll tell everyone you’ll sing for the cultural presentation.” lol. I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of it, but I didn’t totally scratch the idea. And, eventually, I was right for doing that.

The travel agency that’s in charge of our trip also handed us our travel documents. I was a little disappointed when I saw my visa. It was cute and everything, with all the Sakura printed everywhere. The only thing was that the photo was in gray tone! After all the extra effort doing my makeup when I had my photo taken, I still ended up with a sandy face. Hahaha. #trivialconcerns 

That was also the time when I finally met everyone whom I will be traveling with for that almost two-week trip. I was happy to see that some of the people I talked to during the interview also made it. A happy reunion! Yey!

I spent the entire weekend trying to figure out how to fit all the stuff I need to bring in my small luggage. I fail at lightpacking! 

And then here comes the most awaited Monday of all Mondays, September 30, 2013!

…which also happens to be my mom’s birthday.:) 

My dad drove me to the airport a bit earlier than scheduled. Luckily, one of my fellow delegates saw me. Otherwise I’ll think I’m lost. Or that they’d left me already. Lol. After everyone arrived, we had to go through the drills as part of the contract, like making sure we’re not feverish or else we won’t be allowed to leave. The limit was 37 degrees. I was at 36.8. Phew! 

Our flight was at 2:45PM. The staff from the travel agency assisted us with everything until we finally boarded our plane. I was excited because it’s JAL, and  as soon as I took my seat, Nino’s face came in. Haha!
JPOP music on board!
It was a 5-hour flight – the longest I’ve taken so far. 
I had such a surreal feeling as soon as we arrived at Tokyo-Narita airport. We couldn’t take photos inside the airport, but some of my sneaky friends managed to take a shot or two before the airport official came and was like, “No picture!” lol. One staff member, Negishi-san, came to pick us up at the airport and accompanied us to the gorgeous Hotel Nikko Narita where we’ll be staying for 2 nights.  
Tokyo did touch my heart!
The Philippine delegates were among the first ones to arrive, so we had a bit of free time before the official orientation the following day. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see around the hotel (or maybe we just didn’t look hard enough).  So we just took a short tour inside the hotel and went outside to buy a few stuff at 7-11. It was raining a bit that night, and I was freezing!
Before going to bed, I turned on the TV and luckily, SMAP was on. They had a FujiTV special where they surprised a newlywed by attending their wedding reception in disguise. It was the groom's idea. Knowing how much of a SMAP fan his bride is, he arranged the whole thing to surprise her. SMAP sang Lion Heart. Gaaaah! I was so jealous. Lion Heart is soooo going to be one of my wedding songs, and if SMAP performs it for me on the actual day, I'll be the happiest bride ever. That is, if I do get married. Haha.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm blabbing.
I put on my pink peejays, and that was how I spent my first night in Japan.

The afternoon of the following day was the official start of the program.

I was very much into the fall mood, so I wore an outfit that I think was very appropriate for the season. Just a bunch of earth tones here and there.

We had our breakfast at this dining place called Oozora (which means "big sky")  which was just inside the hotel. They had early Halloween decorations. Hihi.

The official orientation where we’ll get to meet the people from our groups was at 1:40pm. I don’t know if we’re just too excited or what, but the Philippine delegates, once again, came in too early - an hour early! The Japanese staff were like, “We did tell them it’s at 1:40, right?” So much for making a good impression. Hahaha!

The hall was packed with about 230 participants from different countries. We sat according to our group, and that was the very first meeting we had with the people we'll be traveling with for the next few days. During the orientation, we were informed about the objectives of the programs and some safety precautions in case there's an emergency. 

Afterwards, we assembled according to our groups.We each gave a short introduction, like why we chose to be in the Entertainment and things like that. Most of us seemed too shy at the beginning, but the others were really energetic. Haha. We also met our two coordinators for the first time, Moriyama-san and Seguchi-san (whom you'll meet in my next entries)

I’m in Entertainment Group H headed for Fukuoka, and our color is Green. 

H and Green. 

If I’m the only one who thinks that’s a funny combination, then I must be a real weirdo. Hahaha!

 They gave us SOS cards to put inside our passports and wallets in case we misplace them.

And we also received a few gifts from the ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.
After the orientation, we had dinner and a bit of free time before the 10PM curfew. We decided to go to AEON Shopping Mall - the mall where Arashi did one of their Mannequin 5 Special episodes. Haha. Because it was really late and the buses were only available until about 9:45PM, we only had about an hour to shop. We didn't get anywhere in the mall. It was huuuuuuuuge. I ended up spending my time at book off (a shop where they sell second-hand CDs, magazines, and books), and DAISO. I just bought a few pairs of cheap socks since I forgot to bring some. Haha.
We headed back to the hotel about five minutes past the curfew, and we thought we were in trouble already. Haha. We're such great, obedient kids.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My First Trip to Japan for JENESYS 2.0 Part 1.5: Food Edition!

Tabemono mo Kawaii! (Even the food is cute!)

That was my initial reaction after I got served my very first meal in Japan.

Coming to the country, I already had expectations of what I was about to see. After all, I’ve been a fan for yearrrrs. Still, I could’t help but feel really amazed whenever I see how “kawaii” for the Japanese is not just an adjective, but a way of life. It’s an industry on its own. It’s everywhere, and I meant that in the most literal sense.

Seeing food arranged in a very “kawaii” manner made me want to eat more, even if they’re vegetables. Hehe. The very reason why Japanese mamas arrange their children’s bento that way is to increase their appetite. That’s so cunning of them. Haha!

But in the end I still didn’t  touch any of the veggies during my stay. Gomen! 

I’ve been a very picky eater ever since I was a kid. It’s something I never really outgrew. I know I’ve been a bother to some people because of this, especially whenever I had to attend parties or do sleepovers. 

Part of the pre-departure procedures was to fill out a questionnaire regarding the participants’ food restrictions. We were asked if we had food allergies or if there’s any food we can’t eat for religious reasons and things like that. Because I thought it would be weird to indicate that I don’t like veggies (since it’s more of a personal preference than an actual restriction), I just said I can eat anything. And I’d lie if I say I didn’t regret that decision later on. Haha.

I only took photos of the Japanese meals, since we'd usually just have western buffet. I didn’t get to take shots of every single meal I had, so here are just a few of them:

I’d consider the very first meal to be the one served during our flight to Tokyo. Airplane meals generally have bad reputation, but JAL’s were actually nice. The chicken pasta was soooo delicious! If only the portion was bigger. lol.

This one is from the very first Japanese restaurant we visited in Tokyo. It was my first time to see an authentic traditional Japanese restaurant, and it looked just like what I usually see in dramas/movies. Haha. The place was really nice, though it was a bit hot inside. The food was okay, too. My issue was on the serving, though. I mean, why do Japanese meals have such teeny-tiny servings? Is that part of being “kawaii,” too? Haha! I know they're all for being efficient, but even with food?  No wonder the girls are slim.

We mostly had Japanese food when we transferred to Fukuoka. For 4 days, that’s all we ever ate aside from the occasional western buffet for breakfast.

Here's an okonomiyaki on its pre-mixing, pre-frying stage. I thought it was bibimbap at first. Haha!

That was my first authentic okonomiyaki. It was delicious, but I couldn’t finish one serving. It was too huge!

And this one was definitely the best meal of them all. Meat overload!

This one was in a restaurant inside Hawks Town Mall in Fukuoka. I’ve been craving for meat for days, and with this, my prayers finally got answered.

And this one, I’d have to say, was my least favorite meal. For someone who’s love for fish and vegetables is close to zero, this one was quite the torture. Luckily, I was really starving that night, so I had no problems eating the fish. I still passed on the veggies, though.
And no worries. They didn’t go to waste. I gave them to my dinner table buddies. 

Thankfully, we went to visit Akihabara that same night, and I had a taste of some street sweets. The crepe made up for the not-so-enjoyable dinner. I had the choco-banana-vanilla-something flavor – same as Hayato’s favourite. Haha!

And this was the last Japanese meal we had in Fukuoka. This was on the day we were preparing for our final presentation. Again, not a favorite. I need more meat! I like the food setting, though. 
Please excuse my tired, pale face. This was near the end of the program, and all the fatigue started showing up on my face. Couldn’t help it.

Of course, the last meal was JAL food. The first one was waaaaay better, but this wasn’t that bad either. Yup. I’m that biased with meat.

In the end, my love affair with Japanese food remains the same – there are some things I like and some things I hate. Still, if you love someone something, you have to accept everything, even those parts you don’t like, right?

What the heck am I talking about? Oh, yeah. Food. lol.

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