Japan is one of my dream destinations. Watching Japanese movies, including animated films that feature Cherry Blossoms or Sakura Trees makes me teary-eyed. I live in a third world country, the Philippines, and stepping into the first world is somewhat complicated. I can only hope and pray that someday I could explore the “Land of the Rising Sun” and view Sakura Trees or the Cherry Blossoms with my own eyes. And one day, it happened.
I couldn’t let my dream be just a dream. I’m an introvert, and that makes me have fewer acquaintances I could invite to join me. I ended up fulfilling this dream all by myself. When my Japan travel visa was approved, I didn’t hesitate to book my flight. I literally couldn’t sleep the night I had my round trip tickets. Excitement and fear are battling inside me. Can I make it? I’ve traveled overseas but never on my own. I used to travel with a family member or with one of my closest friends. But at that time, I needed to conquer my fear of being alone in a strange country, and I believed I could make it because my eagerness to see the Sakura Trees was stronger.
How I Prepared for this Trip
The preparation was exciting but not easy. I have limited days so I need to be fastidious on which destinations are worth the visit. I studied their train system which is nerve-wracking. I’ve read and watched solo traveler’s vlogs. I booked my accommodations near train stations so I can easily locate them if in case I’ll have a hard time finding my way. Since I’m a Muslim, I researched where I can eat Halal foods. I even watched how they operate their very intimidating comfort rooms. With all these and that, I had my itinerary organized, and I’m good to go.
My Six-Day Itinerary
The actual day came. I arrived in Japan in the first week of April 2019 when the Sakura Trees were in full bloom. As soon as I went out of the Airport and felt that cool temperature, I still can’t believe I made it but that was just the start of my 6- day journey to Japan.
I boarded the train from Osaka Airport not sure if it was the right train. I didn’t mind if I get lost because I had the feeling that Japan is a safe place. Feeling comfortable on my window seat, I sighted some Sakura Trees on the way, and I couldn’t explain how my heart skipped a beat. I can only see these views in the movies. When I reached my Hostel, I had a quick rest and went out to explore Dotonbori. I have no time to waste.
The next day, I started strolling around Sakuranomiya Park. It’s my first time seeing the Sakura Trees up close, I can even touch them and I felt like crying out of bliss. It’s like I own the whole park because of few people walking around. I don’t want to leave the place but that day was also my schedule to Universal Studios.
When I reached the famous Theme Park, I felt like a child again exploring the park. I can’t forget how I screamed my heart out during the Harry Potter Ride. The kids sitting next to me seem not to care that somebody older than them was making a scene. I had a childlike but joyful day. It was already late in the afternoon when I decided to visit Kyoto, it was not on my list but I’m so glad I found time to insert it on my tight itinerary. See? That’s one of the perks of traveling alone. You don’t need to consult nor compromise anyone about what and where to go next.
Early morning on the third day, I wander around Osaka Castle. A variety of beautiful Cherry Blossoms surround the place. In the afternoon, I packed my things to Tokyo. It was my first bullet train experience. Enjoying my window seat, I was blessed to see the best scenery. I arrived in Tokyo at dusk. The first thing I did there is to visit Hachiko Memorial Statue. I adored the story of Hachiko that I couldn’t miss it despite the influx of people. Just nearby is the famous busiest pedestrian lane. I crossed back and forth along with the sea of various nationals. I felt so delighted having to experience the moment.
The following day, I joined a group tour for Viewing of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan. It was still roofed with snow when we visited. No words can express how marvelous the scenery. We are too lucky the mountain was visible. According to our Tour Guide, there were times that mountain is hiding behind clouds. We had a stopover in a lovely town called Oshino Hakai and at Fujisan World Heritage Center where we had some lecture on how Mount Fuji evolved through the years. Later that day, I had seen the best sunset while boarded on our Tour bus going back to Tokyo.
On my fifth day, I explored the famous spots in Tokyo. I had a quick stroll in Akihabara and purchased a souvenir in Tokyo Hands. I visited Shiba Park where Japanese Youngsters were filming a rock music video with the garden of tulips and the Tokyo Tower as their backdrop.
On the same day, I had more Cherry Blossoms viewing in Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, and Meguro River. Compared to Osaka, Tokyo parks are more crowded. But despite the horde, it didn’t ruin the vibes. The Sakura Trees of variant colors never ceased to amaze me. In Tokyo, the bloom was already descending as the petals of the Sakura flowers were already falling but the condition only adds up to that magical feeling I had while walking on the alley or pathway of these beautiful trees. My last stop was in Zozoji Temple where I had the stunning view of Tokyo Skytree. There, I also bought lots of affordable goodies. I had accomplished too many activities that day I ended up having aching legs. Same with the previous days, I always wrap up my day in Japan with painful legs because there was so much walking.
I left Tokyo on the sixth day. It was raining when I went out of my accommodation somewhere in the Shinjuku area. I couldn’t wait for the rain to stop as I might miss my flight. It was cold. The rain was quite heavy while I’m walking through the streets of Tokyo. The weather during that time was gloomy but my heart is filled with gratefulness.
How Solo Traveling Helped Me
Although I’m an introvert who prefers less crowd and socialization, I was not independent enough to do solo traveling especially in a fast-paced and advanced country Japan, until I didn’t have the choice because I badly wanted to see the Sakura Trees. But this trip made me acquainted with myself deeper. I’ve set aside living in my comfort zone for a while by making a move talking to foreigners. I had a quick conversation with a Taiwanese girl in my hostel in Osaka and an Australian girl in Tokyo. I concluded there are too many good people out there.
Indeed it’s true, traveling alone is life-changing and liberating that one must try. It was a blessing in disguise that no one to accompany me during those times. Because of that, I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve talked to strangers and asked for directions. I even developed the guts to request someone take a photograph of me because I have no one to do that for me. I build up courage knowing that I completely don’t know anyone there. Being accountable and carefree at the same time made the trip pleasing.
I am so proud when I realized that I can do things I thought I’m not capable of doing. I was in charge of myself entirely and it was so fulfilling. Those were the days I can say that happiness can be attained even when I am alone. Happiness can be found in simple things, like a drop of Cherry petal on your hair, local people smiling at you, beautiful scenery on a window seat, and having your meal in a Convenience Store. These are small things but therapeutic. Traveling with family and friends is fun but traveling alone is rewarding.
Japan is an Ideal Place to do Solo Traveling
If anyone intends to travel alone in Japan, I guarantee you it would be exhilarating. The transportation or train system is undeniably knotty at first but very convenient when you familiarize it. Just don’t be lousy during the peak hours because the commuters seem to be rushing coming in and out of the train stations.
Everyone is so nice. The locals are hospitable and helpful. The language barrier is there but you will be okay. Internet and Google Maps are essential.
It’s been more than a year since I had that trip but I can remember every detail because it really touched my heart and the memories are still tattooed in my mind. This nostalgia I am having makes me want to go back. I hope I can someday.