There is something magical about Japan, waiting to be revealed
When you hear the word “Japan”, what do you have in mind? Sushi? Kimono? Sakura blossoms? Some might even think of the Fuji Mountain, Japan’s highest mountain and most iconic landmark. From the breathtaking natural landscapes to its authentic food, from the cultural history to the modern technology, people around the world are so intrigued by Japan that they decide to travel there for the unique travel experience offered. According to Japan Tourism Statistics, the number of foreign visitors to Japan last year reached 28.7 million and the number keeps increasing!
Among those foreign visitors were our Mavchicks and Mavbros. Utilizing Maverick’s Personal Development Fund (PDF), six of Mavchicks and Mavbros—Marsha, Dhini, Fuad, Karen, Karina, and Rendy—visited Japan at different times during 2016-2018. For you who wonder what PDF is, it is a benefit provided by Maverick to its employees to go to places that have never been visited or take courses and learn new things outside of work. The purpose of PDF is to support employees in developing themselves and adding experience beyond their daily work. Sounds cool, huh?
Curious about their experience, we asked them five questions. Their answers might give you hints about Japan and help you plan your holiday when you decide to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
1. Why do you pick Japan for your Personal Development destination?
Marsha: I have a personal mission to visit a new country every year, and Japan had long been in my ‘must visit’ list. Japan is steeped in its tradition and culture, yet at the same time very much embraces modernity; this juxtaposition intrigued me. The country is also full of quirks — take Harajuku and cosplay, for example — and good food!
Karina: To be honest Japan was my back up plan. I wanted to go to Thailand with my husband, but just before we bought the ticket in 2017, the office announced that we were going to Thailand for the outing! So, we planned the whole trip to Japan at the last minute. But, now I can say that going to Japan was the best vacation I’ve ever had so far and it has become my favorite holiday destination in Asia.
Rendy: I wanted to go to Japan to visit the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum (the creator of Doraemon). I know it’s silly, but I grew up reading and watching Doraemon. The second reason was that I love manga, so I wanted to visit Akihabara, the heaven for otaku. The last reason was food, I wanted to have a bite of their authentic OG ramen, sushi, takoyaki, okonomiyaki or basically, all Japanese food.
Karen: Japan has always been in my top three countries to visit! I grew up with a lot of Japanese manga and cartoon, which provided great portrayals of Japan: wonderful view, nice air, great food, positive attitudes, cute characters, etc. That triggered me to see Japan with my own eyes. And I must say I made a good decision. The country is much more charming than what I saw in the pictures.
Dhini: Because I love the food! Japanese food can never go wrong. I love all kind of Japanese food, as simple as takoyaki, sushi, sashimi, ramen, udon, beef bowl, sukiyaki, and the list goes on. Luckily, I could taste all that in Japan including the snack. My favorite snack is Calbee Jagabee Potato Stick, it’s crispy, light, yet makes you crave for more. Surprisingly, I found one food that I didn’t like during my trip. I don’t remember the name of the food but it was a toffee served on a stick.
Fuad: I grew up reading Japanese manga so visiting Japan was on top of my bucket list. I had always wanted to walk the streets the characters go through on their way to school, ride the train on which they fall in love, and get lost in the concrete jungle that is Tokyo. Ticking Japan off the list was a great way to celebrate my 4-year run as a PR professional at Maverick.
2. Where’s the most memorable place that you visited in Japan?
Marsha: The Ghibli Museum building looked like it came straight out of a fairy tale. Once I entered through the door, the first thing I noticed was how much attention they paid to details. Drink in all the colors, along with the little characters hand-crafted on different windows, lamps, and the ceilings. The museum had different paths inside, and it was up to us which we wanted to take first. There were secret doors, stairs, and little nooks and crannies for us to discover. If you go there only to take OOTD shots, though, think again, because they have a very strict no-photography policy so that you “experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder.”
Karina: All the traditional food markets, of course! My favorite market was Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto’s pantry. It was a long and narrow alley with hundreds of food and souvenirs vendors. I tried all the famous and must-try Japanese street food such as okonomiyaki, takoyaki, egg and meat bun, grilled octopus, sushi, and the list goes on! I probably spent more money than I should on food in this place. But, no regret! Food hunting was the highlight of our trip in Japan.
Rendy: I thought my favorite place was Akihabara, until I visited Ameyayokocho Street in Ueno. It was an instant favorite because there were things for everyone, like food, shoes, skincare, and a lot of Japanese knick-knacks with affordable prices. It was also way less crowded compared to Akihabara so I could take my time to explore.
Karen: Takayama, a city with a lot of beautiful old-style buildings in a mountainous prefecture that brought me back to the Edo Period. It was quiet, covered in snow, and had a lot of trekking area. Yes, you read it right. Although I’m known for being unfit (LOL, I acknowledge that), I love trekking, especially during winter.
Dhini: All the parks and shrines. I love outdoor sightseeing, therefore walking through a big park always makes me happy. For me, the best park is the Ueno Park, which I needed more than a couple of hours to go through all the nook. It also had a nice seating area, a vending machine which sold cheap drinks, and a nice shrine with a pretty alley.
Fuad: Tokyo was more than I expected. I thought it would be a boring grey metropolitan where I would hurt my feet from too much walking. But no. It was a vibrant place with clear blue sky shining against lush, green parks where great temples stood proudly. It had lovely restaurants sitting on top of each other in convenient alleys where one could seek comfortable shades for a break.
Other than that, The National Museum was splendid and Akibahara was happily busy. But since Tokyo is a metropolitan, it was easy for me to access quieter places such as Odawara and Hakone from Tokyo.
3. What’s the most expensive thing you bought in Japan?
Marsha: A Hogwarts robe at Universal Studios Osaka! Luckily, however, the toddler size fit me so I managed to save up some money compared to if I had to buy the adult size.
Karina: Silly me… It was the Osaka Universal Studio Express Pass! I knew we had to make the most of our precious time in Japan, so we decided to buy the ridiculously expensive express pass to avoid queuing for the most popular rides. Being an anxious traveler I was, I thought even with the pass, we had to be at the gate as early as 8 am to further save our time there.
Little did I know, if you come that early to a theme park, you have the freedom to hop on whatever rides because you have already beaten the afternoon crowd. Darn it! That express pass worth millions of Rupiahs was unnecessary, considering how early we came in the morning anyway.
Rendy: A Monster Hunter figurine at Akihabara and Doraemon’s bamboo copter at Fujiko F. Fujio Museum
Karen: Minion popcorn bucket in Universal Studio! I’m not a big fan of popcorn, but the minion bucket was just too cute — especially the one with Santa hat. I managed to bring it home safely and I am going to use it to store my cookies.
Dhini: A pair of Onitsuka Tiger shoes. As my last casual walking shoes were bought more than 3 years ago, I think I was entitled to buy it :)))
Fuad: I bought a mini duplicate of Japanese folding screen (bōbu) titled Fūjin Raijin-zu by Tawaraya Sōtatsu from the National Museum in Tokyo. Later I learned the actual item is a Japanese national treasure. Awesome! It now decorates my desk along with the miniature of Akatsuki Gundam and Masamune Date’s armor.
4. What’s the silliest thing that happened to you in Japan?
Marsha: My Couchsurfing host planned an exciting first night for me in Tokyo. After having some delectable okonomiyaki, he brought me to a… public bike rent! He asked me if I could ride a bike and I confidently said yes, although it had been some time since the last time I rode one — and a kid’s bike at that. Long story short, I botched my comeback at bike-riding. I kept fumbling and tumbling, and at one point I even crashed into a road divider while my Couchsurfing host held back his laughter.
Karina: Knowing that a lot of Japanese couldn’t speak good English, my husband and I tried to speak in broken English to a store assistant at Onitsuka Tiger Shinjuku. After struggling to express what we wanted in broken English, the store assistant then spoke to us in perfect Bahasa Indonesia “Mau cari yang seperti apa?”.
Rendy: When I was in Kyoto, I was looking for Gion Street, to see infamous district. I confidently entered Gion on my Google Maps application to find my way around. I ended up at Gion Cafe, a few kilometers away from Gion Street. To make the best of it, I decided to eat at a restaurant near there that served Katsu (deep fried meat). It was the best katsu I have ever eaten in Japan! But, if you ask me the name of the place, I wouldn’t remember it because I didn’t manage to take notes.
I also had an experience speaking Japanese. When I wanted to buy the ticket to Fujiko F. Fujio museum at Lawson, I found that none of their employees spoke English. So, I used Google Translate to communicate with them by writing it in Indonesian and spoke the translated words to them. It was a success and I feel proud of that.
Karen: I bought a new “Sakurabobo” phone strap, it’s a famous character from Shirakawago Village, and happily put in on my phone. A few days after, during one of my trips in Kyoto, I lost the phone strap! I spent about 30 minutes to go down the road that I just passed through, with a little hope that I could find my Sakurabobo. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found 🙁
Dhini: Finding an affordable restaurant to have a casual dinner can sometimes be challenging, especially because most Japanese people couldn’t speak English. Therefore, my family and I sometimes got misled by entering a restaurant that applied a table charge. We knew this the hard way as we received the bill for our meals. As we couldn’t communicate with the waiter, it was impossible for us to complain so we just paid the bills and left.
Later at the hotel, we learned that table charge was common in Japan. It’s called Otoshi and is commonly found at bars and other establishments that serve alcohol. As it was quite pricey (range from 300 – 1.000 yen per person), we quickly learned Japanese so that we could avoid encountering the same problem again. The words are “Otōshidai arimasu ka?” (Is there a seating charge?) and “Ikura desu ka?” (How much?).
Fuad: My friend and I met a friendly Japanese man walking his Shiba Inu dog. We couldn’t speak Japanese and the Japanese man couldn’t speak English. So, we communicated with the dog but not the man.
5. What did you discover about yourself in Japan?
Marsha: The combination between the vibrant scenes of big cities and the serenity of the outskirts refilled my creative juices, and helped create the occasionally-needed distance from work that I found critical to get back the fresh perspective I needed as a team leader.
Karina: Japan was full of nice surprises! I really didn’t expect much from Japan because of the last-minute planning and research we did. But, those nice surprises have taught me to be more relaxed, open-minded, and just go with my guts without overthinking, which I can apply to both my personal and professional life!
Karen: Japan has inspired me to live with more integrity (discipline, on time, calm, etc.), be more thoughtful (they appreciate others by staying quiet in public places, and when they drop something (e.g. food) on the street, they’ll clean it by themselves), and last but not the least: fitter (the old people there could walk and hike faster than me without getting out of breath).
Rendy: The trip has given me an insight into Japanese society and how civilized and disciplined they are. It puts things into perspective for me of how much we can achieve if we can be like them.
Dhini: The combination of pretty garden, polite citizens, and city modernity made me feel refreshed, thus it made me ready for a new challenge.
Fuad: The trip to Japan was delightful, and it served as a recalibration for my life perspective. I returned to Jakarta with a fresh take on things, a better confidence, and a calmness of a zen garden.
Each of the Mavchicks and Mavbros has a different story to tell, confirming that Japan has a lot to offer to everyone and how traveling can help explore more about self-discovery. It’s an opportunity to see the world through new eyes, realizing that everytime you get home, you bring some new learnings in mind. And, this, my friends, can happen to everyone in Maverick with his or her Personal Development Fund!