Looking at the sky, counting the number of airplanes and assuming it as good luck, this is what my childhood was like. I always felt, what would be the experience to be at the airplane? A girl aged 23 years with this feeling! It’s kind of awkward to share it, but it actually was my dream. I had no idea when my dream would come true. Finally, my dream came to reality when my sponsor’s parents invited me to explore Japan. I accepted it without thinking twice because I wanted to see the other part of the world, except the world where I was born.
I was super excited about my first-ever-international trip. This October, everything was sorted and was counting days to travel. I was excited not just about traveling, but also presenting about SDGs to the high school students and take some classes in the Matsumoto Kokusai High School. I am always excited about meeting new people, sharing my learnings and inspiring them. Moreover, I was representing my country Nepal, so I planned to introduce my country the best I can. With all my plans and some details, I wanted to make my trip interesting and merely successful. Japan, was a different place, I knew I had to face the language barrier, culture barrier and I was prepared for this journey mentally and physically too.
November 8, the date was confirmed for my flight and my parents gave a sweet farewell to me and accompanied me up to the airport. I had a luggage and a backpack full of warm clothes, ready for the Japan Winter. With the passport and ticket on my hand, I entered inside with my Japanese sponsor who is like a father to me. He was there to guide me. After passing immigration, I entered on the respective waiting room for Korean airlines flight. I had so much of mixed feeling. I was excited as well as nervous. As per the announcement to board for flight, I walked inside a big airplane that was such a wonderful feeling. The airplane world, I witnessed in the movie was finally in front of me. A charming smiling faces of air hostess welcoming the passengers made me feel warm and happy. Everything around me was interesting but unfortunately, I didn’t get windows seat which made me a bit sad.
Everything was new; I had to be inside for 6 hours and I had some plans before head. I thought of watching movies to kill the time. I enjoyed the flight from Kathmandu to Korea. And I was traveling to Japan from Korea which was the most exciting part of my journey. Uh! Finally, I got the window seat though which I enjoyed the beautiful views of mountains, oceans and magnificent landmarks. The journey was amazing and finally, we reached Narita Airport, Japan. From airport, we took a train and after a sky liner to reach our host home after a long and tiresome journey.
When I reached home, I was overwhelmed with the warm welcome. I could smell Nepali foods being prepared to welcome us in Japan by some Nepali sisters. We enjoyed Nepali food along with ‘PaniPuri’ which made me feel fresh and amazing. At that moment, I could not believe what was happening around me, living the place where I was dreaming for years. I was finally at Nagano’s house, near to Zenkoji Temple, which is one of the popular tourist’s destination in Japan.
The first day went with some talks about Nepal, Japan, and cultures. The schedule was prepared for the visit and we spended a few days near Zenkoji visiting beautiful places and museums nearby. After some visit, I volunteered in some activities and food bank project. As Nagano was affected recently by Typhoon, the affected people were living on the tents with a miserable life overcoming such cold temperatures. I also visited to the affected areas and as a part of the project, I helped them providing food and clothes as an international volunteer. They were so happy seeing different faces and received lots of praise and love from them. I got the chance to volunteer in child relief campaign of UNICEF in Japan and interacted with many Japanese fellows from Social Works and Development field. It was a very different learning about Volunteerism. I was amazed looking at them, they were perfect in any works they engaged and had positive attitudes, I learnt Japanese are really filled with gratitude and politeness. During Volunteering, I also met many old people and talked to them. Through interacting with them I could analyze that Nepali old aged people and Japanese old age people do have a common story. Nagano area, where I was volunteering is far from Tokyo and all these people has their generations working in Tokyo and some other cities as in Nepal.
I went to the popular shrines, Tongakushi, historic museums nearby. I was travelling many places every day which was really a great moment. The host family always made me feel secure and comfortable. They cared about many different details, regarding food and time to rest. I am thankful to them for taking good care of us. The historical Museum of Tongakushi was a magical piece of art form. I travelled three prefectures of Japan in my entire journey. With all the excitement and enjoyment, I spent 23 days easily.
After spending good times at Nagano Prefecture, I travelled to Niigata, the capital city of Niigata Prefecture of Japan. It is the largest city on the west coast of Honshu, and the second-largest city in Chubu region after Nagoya. It faces the Sea of Japan and Sado Island. The city is sometimes called the “City of Water” Mizu-no-miyako because of the two rivers that flow through it, its position next to the Japan Sea, its many wetlands, and the canals that used to run through the city. I was in Niigata to experience sea and experience cruise ride on sea. I belong to a landlocked country, therefore seeing sea for the first time was really memorable. I also tried some seafood such as Shrimp, Oysters, and Octopus. The first taste gave me an awkward feeling, but the second time wasn’t that bad. I loved some food in Japan like Udon, Soba and Ramen including Tempura and variety of Ice-creams. I ate many snacks and chocolates from Japan. It was like exploring a place and food side-by-side.
When I was in Niigata, I experienced heavy rain and cold weather. The wind was so strong, it was like a small typhoon for me. I went to dance class with my host sister and Karaoke was the memorable part. I had a one small Japanese sister in our home, she taught us piano and I taught her few Nepali sentences and Nepali dance steps as well. It was wonderful being with her.
After Niigata trip, I went to place called Hakuba. Hakuba is a village in the Japanese Alps, just outside the city of Nagano, which was host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. A winter sports hub, Hakuba encompasses mountain resorts with terrain for skiing, snowboarding and hiking. The Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, built for the 1998 games, is at the base of the Happo-one resort. Hakuba village offers a lively scene and hot springs. November was mostly the snowfall month in Hakuba, but this time there was no snow-fall. I wasn’t lucky enough to experience snowfall this time. However, I went to visit the Jumping Stadium where the Olympic Games were organized. Hakuba has lots of museums and I went to many museums there. It was fun exploring the places and experiencing life in the cold place. I captured every memories in different places and lived my life happy.
After Hakuba, I went to another city called Matsumoto. Matsumoto city is also called as the sister city of Kathmandu and I was there for the presentation. A day before the presentation, I visited the historic city and Matsumoto castle. Matsumoto Castle is one of five castles designated as ‘National Treasures of Japan’ and the oldest castle donjon remaining in Japan. Construction began in 1592 of the elegant black and white structure with its three turrets. Because of the elegant black walls, Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called ‘Crow Castle’. Inside the castle are steep stairs and low ceilings leading past displays of armor and weapons from the Sengoku Period (Warring States Period) when the castle was built. The narrow wooden windows, once used by archers and gunmen, provide amazing views of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the koi and swans circling in the moat below. I clicked lots of pictures there.
And the next day at Matsumoto city I gave a presentation at Matsumoto Kokusai High School, on the theme- “Need Change and Challenge for SDGs”. Likewise, I also represented Nepal and showed them what Nepal is through the video of the Nepal Tourism Board. The high school students were curious about SDGs and about Nepal. I tried to answer their queries and the presentation followed with group discussion. I also told them about the organization I am working on, which is Eco-Network. I was successful to introduce my country Nepal, really well. After the presentation, the students were interviewed by the journalists and I received lots of words of encouragement and gratitude. The story about my presentation was covered by National daily Newspaper of Japan. It was such a proud moment for me as my works was appreciated.
It was end of Japan’s trip. However, before the return flight, I had two days to explore. So, I moved to Tokyo to experience the life there. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and now I know why it is a capital. A busy city, however systematic rules, and guidelines. Everything on time and systematic classy lifestyle. Tokyo is also home to the Imperial Palace and the seat of Government and Parliament. In East-Central Honshu, the largest of Japan’s main islands, this heavily populated city is well worth exploring. Some of the places I visited wereSensoji, Nakamise, Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace & East Garden, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Sky tree, Tokyo Tower and so on. Tokyo is using smart-city technologies to develop into a smart-energy city. In Tokyo, smart-city projects have introduced energy efficiency solutions, including high-efficiency systems, electric vehicles and local power storage. In spite of being the big city, it serves really well to the visitors. Tokyo is the dream place for many people. I was very happy as my dream got fulfilled.
After the amazing trip to many places, the journey came to an end. It was the same Korean airlines I had to return back. I bought many chocolates as a souvenir from Japan for my friends and family. The things I brought back are not just the souveniers but the learnings and good attitude that I learnt from the Japanese people. I learnt that work is important and we need to be dedicated to it. Likewise, one should always have gratitude for other people. In addition to this, I also learnt healthy food culture that increases your life expectancy. All the learnings that I got from the first international trip are treasured in my memory. Japan, was my first country where I visited and it will not be the last. Traveling journey has started and now I hope to see other parts of the world in the days to come.
- Saru Pyakurel