To me, Japan is a country of convenience, politeness, discipline and gorgeous landscapes. It’s the country where napping on the train during the commute is perfectly normal. It’s home to the most polite and helpful people I have ever encountered.
Japan had been on my bucket list for quite a while before I was offered a job that would take me thousands of kilometers away from my homeland and shape me into the person I am today.
I was living and working in Romania when I came across this job ad that sounded way too good to be true: 6 months in Tokyo, travelling around the country and documenting the experience on an online travel platform. My dream job in a nutshell. Despite being skeptical, I applied and hoped for the best. It turned out to be a legit job posting, with an accurate description and the best part of it was, of course, being offered the role. I accepted immediately as this change was part of a promise I had made to myself a while back. As a recent university graduate I decided to spend the next few years moving around the world, working in different countries and living my dreams.
The paperwork and visa arrangements took longer than I expected. However, having something so amazing to look forward to kept me excited and motivated. Even with all that time at my disposal, I decided not to undertake an extensive research beforehand which turned out to be the best decision I could have made. Having my mind and heart open at all times, I immersed myself in a culture so fascinating and so diverse, I never could have imagined had I not experienced it for myself.
In August 2017, I embarked on my adventure, having absolutely no idea where it was going to take me. With minimum planning yet hopeful for a positive outcome, I arrived in Tokyo so eager to discover what life on that side of the world would be like and I was happy to launch into this journey all by myself.
Japan and all it has to offer
Japan exceeded all of my expectations. I wanted a unique experience and I was thirsty for novelty. I wanted life to surprise me and I wasn’t disappointed! I’ve learned so much about the country’s culture, traditions, cuisine and geography, and as much of a cliche as this might be, about myself, as part of the process.
To me, Japan is a country of convenience, politeness, discipline and gorgeous landscapes. It’s the country where napping on the train during the commute is perfectly normal. It’s home to the most polite and helpful people I have ever encountered. They will go above and beyond trying to help you in case you need anything. It’s also the nation with the coolest toilets. Oh yes, the toilets with all their washing, drying and music playing in the background functions that make attending to a basic need more exciting than ever (the toilets that offer additional option of a heated toilet seat are God’s gift to the users during winter).
My work days were spent mostly doing field research (it sounds quite formal for someone who was basically full time touristing) with little time spent in the office. I used my free time to build a social life, make new friends and sure, more sightseeing, because one can never run out of places to see in Japan.
I have seen the most stunning temples, had cups of green tea in perfectly groomed Japanese gardens, went on countless hikes, witnessed jaw-dropping sunsets and visited more places with animals than I believed one could possibly visit in half a year - from a cat cafe to a squirrel garden to several monkey parks and finally to the place which I declared to be my favorite spot in Japan: a lovely island inhabited by countless free roaming rabbits.
Memories to last a lifetime
One of the many “firsts” I experienced in Japan was solo-travelling, something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. As it turned out, I couldn’t have chosen a better starting point as Japan makes vacationing easier than ever. There is tons of information available online on the most touristic hotspots around the country as well as complex itineraries for the most popular trips. All this combined with a remarkably reliable public transport system and a high level of safety makes the holiday planning incredibly easy. Not only has this taught me to love my own company, but it has also exponentially improved my selfie taking skills (and taking photos of yourself truly is a challenge when travelling alone).
As I am writing this piece, a wave of memories comes flooding back and I feel like I could talk about Japan forever. The list of wonderful, fun and unique experiences seems to be never ending; from that one weekend I spent volunteering at an English camp, playing with the most adorable and cheerful small kids to that time when I ended up bathing fully naked in an onsen (the name for the Japanese natural hot springs, highly popular and spread all across the country), the one authentic Japanese experience I swore to skip.
Six months later, I returned home not only with exceptional memories, epic stories and more in love with travelling than ever, but with a fresh perspective on life, a higher level of self-confidence and an ease about the future that comes from the fulfillment of having accomplished one’s dreams.
Author - Paula Danciu
A 27 years old Romanian who’s been lucky enough to travel quite a bit and live abroad in Europe and Asia. Nothing sets my heart on fire like travelling, and adding new destinations to my bucket list has become a hobby. Other than travelling, I’m into reading, cooking and learning Spanish. I’m also all about positive thinking and constant personal development. If you would like to learn more about Tokyo, please refer to my book: Greater Than a Tourist - Tokyo, Japan: 50 Tips from a Local