In essence, Japan was a mix of raves that didn’t disappoint and of  preconceptions that were just misconceptions.

In the beginning, it felt like Japan didn’t want me on her floors.

I had a booked promo ticket last year that was left for the paper shredders. And this year, our Jetstar flight got emotionlessly cancelled. And then with our rebooked PAL ticket, like a joke with no humor in it, at all, the pilot had to announce that the flight will be delayed.

I smiled, laughed, and smirked at the series of unfortunate events. Somehow I started thinking maybe I’m not meant to check this bucket list just yet. Maybe the flight will crash. Maybe there’ll be a tsunami or an earthquake. Maybe Japan will be hit next by terrorists. I was ready to rationalize and defend the seeming roadblocks to my way to the land of the rising sun.

I love sunsets more maybe so the sunrise capital had her pent up emotions against my biases hinder me from experiencing her.

In the 4th hour in that boarding area, the overflowing optimism and hope while waiting for some miracle to reverse the initial announcement has wane. I stooped my head down and just burst into tears. I can’t believe, with all my excitement and grand imaginations of how this trip is going to be as awesome as it is in my head, this Japan trip is not pushing through, again.

I have a strong opinion about sharing about future travels. I have been a victim of preemptions too many times now that I really try my best to not spill any information until I’m actually in the destination.

I thought, again, by some 2nd degree preemption, the curse is ruining my happiness.

Jetstar didn’t even have concrete plans on how to bring us to Japan. They’re just plainly off the hook. They can’t fly us, they’ll refund, they’ll send us to hotels, period.

No consideration whatsoever if we have important plans or prepaid bookings. Nada.

But le boyfriend was firm, he’s not about to go home and spend his limited and rare vacation in the sizzling Philippine weather.

We rebooked, nullifying the supposed promo fare savings, but we’re finally, hopefully on our way to spring weather.

We rested at 5am, tackled the breakfast buffet and as if a deja vu, went to the check-in boarding process all over again, only in a different airport terminal.

I was praying intently that PAL won’t disappoint. We boarded, thankfully, and then the flight delay announcement.

What can you do but find the humor in the situation.

Delayed, itineraries broken, booking adjusted, but we finally arrived. IN JAPAN!!!

Everything else became a series of surreal moments. Everything was just worth the roller coaster of emotions. Japan didn’t fail me, for sure.

It’s a country of order, of OC-ness, of perfect systems.

For the OC me who’s a sucker for systems, and order, I was in heaven. It was the ideal life in my head in reality. I couldn’t be happier!

They also proved that an orderly place can also look aesthetically beautiful! Japan is beaming with art, minimalism, and old and modern-fused designs!

I took a lot of photos to show. Sharing a few of them here:

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

We looove Japan vendos!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

So safe that kids walk by themselves without adult supervision

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Cosplayers in Harajuku

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Flowers and bikes make Tokyo so so romantic and pretty

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Superheroes in race karts!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Minimalism and function, 2 things Japan has mastered so well

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

They ‘ve made trash segregation a big deal in Japan. Kids are taught this first together with manners before abcs

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Culture and beauty richness in one photo

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Hanami (Sakura viewing party)

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Who has owls for pets?

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

They are not cold and stiff people as others made us believe!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

We were in the mega metropolis one minute and in this zen nature the next. They just mixed modern and ancient in one coordinate without problems

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

In our Airbnb neighborhood

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg


My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Such pretty store front!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Intense si ate!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Clean your hands before worship –seems like a staple in shrines

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My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

They love playing geisha

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg My Travelthon | Tokyo leg My Travelthon | Tokyo leg My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

They put effort cleaning even steel roll up doors!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Even trashed boxes are in proper order!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Tokyo Skytree– tallest broadcasting tower in Japan

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My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

This guy loves Southeast Asia! He’s a traveling musician in the flesh!

My Travelthon | Tokyo leg

Our Airbnb hosts–we felt we have parents in Tokyo!

I’ve been warned before I went that Japan will capture my heart. I took it with a grain of salt. I did not want to set expectations. I know what raves and hypes can do to perceptions. I wanted to give each place I explore an equal chance for appreciation.

But they were absolutely right. SO right that for the first time ever, considering all the amazing places I’ve been blessed enough to experience, it was only Japan that made me hate the country that I love, my home.

Paris was undeniably a+ but I still wanted to go back to the Philippines. I still saw the unique brilliance of my countrymen. I still walked in her streets and left proud to be a Filipino.

That’s what travel abroad does to me. It makes me appreciate the Philippines,  flaws and all. It makes me smile recognizing the warmth and good hearts of the Filipinos. That despite everything, we are doing okay with what we have as a disaster-prone archipelago, as human beings.

But Japan, she heartbreakingly put a spotlight on all our weaknesses as a nation and as individual citizens. She underscored how our systems are critically failing. It was painful to see how far we still have to go, how slowly we are moving. How each of us is weighing us down with our selfish, take-not-give mentality.

Because she was doing everything well, with love, with so much thought. People mind themselves but they are very considerate of how others will be affected along the course of their own pursuits. They treat their jobs with honor and respect, as if service is their life’s mission.

I tend to rank my travels according to quality of total experience. Japan immediately shot up to the top of my list even challenging Europe as my favorite.

It was a long time coming, even a tearful, tough journey, but she revealed herself to be worth all the wait.

In my ideal world, every Filipino should immerse in Japan at least once. If we all stay there for a week, we might all come back changed, waiting stop lights, standing in a single file on escalators, segregating wastes and cleaning after ourselves.

That could’ve made all the difference.

Everyone seems to be falling in love with Japan. If you’ve been, what made you fall in love? If you’re just planning to go, what are you  most excited about? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

I created a Japan Travel Guide for Travel Finds Shop’s blog. If you want to know our actual itinerary, budget, expenses, the places we went to, food we tried that we loved, check this out!