Thursday, January 23, 2014

My First Trip to Japan for JENESYS 2.0 Part 7: Days 3 and 4 in FUKUOKA + My First Visit to AKIHABARA!

There were there things that made me extra cheery on our third day in Fukuoka:
  • I was tasked to deliver a short (very short) thank you speech in Japanese
  • We finally met our Japanese host family for the home visit (again, very short)
First on our agenda was a tour of Aru Aru City in Kokura, which was pretty much the Akihabara of the south. It was an otaku-themed mall filled with, well, everything otaku – from anime and game character figure toys and trading cards to a huge collection of manga and other goodies. One of the most popular attractions inside the mall was the Kita-Kyushu Manga Museum.

The museum was home to a thousand manga creations from some of the most popular mangakas ever, with a special focus on Fukuoka-based and born authors. I was more into anime than manga when I was younger, so I wasn’t really very familiar with some of the manga titles the museum has, unless they have an animated or TV drama counterpart (I saw Bambino!). FYI: My all-time favorite anime series are Slam Dunk and Fushigi Yuugi, which pretty much explains why I’m a Midorikawa Hikaru fan. Haha.
Aru Aru City
No makeup! Haha. Too tired.
Taking photos inside the museum was prohibited (for obvious reasons), but there were some areas where they allow a few snapshots. I just concentrated on listening to the lectures and looking around the seemingly endless walls of framed manga artistry. Seriously, it was like we were inside a labyrinth filled with framed colored manga pages on the walls. It was pretty cool.
Then it was time for my really awkward speech.

Okay. I was assigned to write and deliver a short 礼の言葉 for the staff of Kitakyushu Manga Museum because I’m an excellent public speaker (lolwhat?) only because I was one of the three students who knows Nihongo (the other being Blake and Takkun).  I wrote the speech on a piece of paper from the hotel’s memo pad (lol) and asked Moriyama-san, one of our coordinators, to check it for me before we left for Aru Aru City.

My original plan was to deliver the speech in Japanese and then translate it in English after each sentence for my fellow delegates, but I got too nervous so I ended up using Japanese until the very end. Hihi. Fail. But I guess it was okay. At least the staff understood my message. J
Tadah! My first Japanese speech in all its Hiragana glory. Haha!
View outside the mall
The only character I can still recognize. Haha. I'm really getting old.

That afternoon, we rode all the way to Sunrise Haki by chartered bus to meet our Japanese host family. J

I don't remember the exact name of the place anymore (sorry) but this was already outside Fukuoka, I think. Here are some photos on our way to Sunrise Haki. See Japan beyond it's city image!
Ams and I on our way to Sunrise Haki

Since the home visit was such a special experience, I'll talk about it on a separate blog post. J

Fast forward to my most memorable experience during the entire trip. And yes, by "most" I mean the real essence of the word. While everything we did during our 10-day stay was memorable, this was by far THE most memorable.

I had my first Onsen experience! Hahaha! 
On my way to the Onsen. *dokidoki*

For anyone who isn't familiar, going to an Onsen or a Japanese public bath/hot springs means you have to go naked in front of everyone. Haha. Of course there's a separate bath for men and women. But still, it's a pretty big deal especially for foreigners (like me) who's pretty new to the idea. At first, it was really awkward especially since we were only given a teeny tiny towel to cover ourselves. Our coordinators, Seguchi-san and Moriyama-san, told us to just be comfortable.

I kept remembering that Utaban episode when Arakawa-senshu, a former member of Nadeshiko Japan (women's national football team), said that Onsen baths are simply a meeting place for naked people. Haha.

I don't know about the others, but after a few minutes I was like, "What the heck!," stopped giving a damn, and just enjoyed the warm bath. Haha. Onsen water is thought to have healing capabilities, so with all the nakedness aside, the experience was pretty heavenly.
Of course, no photos! Haha!

Fast forward to the following day, which was intended for a group meeting. We'll have our final presentation the next day and we're required to prepare a short performance. We thought we'd spice it up a bit, so we decided to do a song-dance-speech mishmash. We’re scheduled to fly back to Tokyo in the afternoon, so we had to finish everything in one meeting! Good thing, Group H has awesome people. Haha! J
Here are some photos during our meeting, shot by Touch:

Lunch time!
You can read more about my food experience here.

At the airport on our way back to Tokyo
The airport was filled with photos of the handsomes, so these photo opps are a must!
Hahaha! Please forgive this dorkiness. I can't even. 
Bye Fukuoka!
...and hello again, Tokyo!
Again, more of my food experience here.

And finally, a trip to Japan is never complete without a visit to Akihabara - the otaku mecca! 

After dinner, I went with Blake and Michelle to visit the "Land of Dreams" (for many foreign Japan enthusiasts). It's our final night in Tokyo and we'll be heading back to Chiba after our presentation the following day, so of course, we can't miss an opportunity to see the place that represents a significant part of Japan's pop culture.

While walking around the colorful streets of Akihabara, I kept remembering my anime and manga days as a grade school kid, and like many others, I did dream of seeing the "mothership" one day. Now that I've outgrown that phase (at least I think I did), I came to realize that Akihabara is really more for the male aficionados. *winkwink*

Unfortunately, since it was already evening, Akihabara wasn't as lively as I thought it should be. It was still a fun experience, though. 
There were signs inside the station telling girls to beware of skirt peepers. Alam na! Haha!
We spent most of our time inside Don Quijote (Donki for short) - a really huge shopping center selling, well, almost everything. Everything!

I'm sorry for the lack of photos. I was too busy sight-seeing. Hehe.
Our messy hotel room

Don't judge us. We're already getting desperate trying to fit all our stuff inside our luggage bags. Hehe.

Final night in Tokyo, Final night in Art Hotels Omori. 

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