A Photo Journey by Arlene Donaire
Every day was a journey and the journey itself felt like home as I tried to grasp and appreciate my life in Japan. Four seasons in the land of the rising sun – winter, spring, summer, and fall. All worth it!
Manila — I was blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Tokyo for a year between 2010 and 2011. Before then, I only knew of Tokyo’s Narita Airport as a stopover for the inter-continental flights when I had to travel to the US.
Even so, I’d always been fascinated by the efficiency and orderliness, the almost anesthetic cleanliness, and the technologically-driven life of Japan, a country so small in geographic size yet considered as an economic giant among the world leaders. I’ve wondered then how interesting it must be to experience life in Japan and how it would enrich my own appreciation for my Filipino way of life.
I have lived some fruitful years in the US as student, but looking back now, it doesn’t quite compare to the profoundly enriching journey I’ve had in Japan.
When the chance came for me to work for the Asian Productivity Organization in Tokyo I immediately embraced it, with much skepticism and excitement all at once. Japan, for those that have not yet experienced it, is really enigmatic, a beautifully strange country steeped in strongly respected customs and traditions and yet assertively embracing and leading the modern world. Even after a year of residence, I would not claim to have known it well enough. I still am awed but I did have a good taste of it for sure as I went about in my daily routine.
A highlight of my year, was an earthshaking experience in March that left me mostly disconcerted for my safety for the rest the year and more importantly gave me a renewed desire to value my own existence and those that I held dear.
I was at work in Tokyo when the devastating earthquake and tsunami happened. Tokyo itself was spared from the massive loss of lives and properties and I was grateful for my immediate safety but the experience left me with a nagging fear of the unknown.
The experience however made me understand just how rock-solid the foundations are of Japan as a nation as it managed to systematically care for its citizens amid the massive destruction and despair and now, re-emerging unscathed and noble from the disaster that struck. The rest of the daily life routines seemed easier after that.
Though not quite feeling at home living on the 13th floor of an apartment building in the reclamation district of Toyosu, which swayed like a cradle on every tremor post-earthquake, I had fully embraced Tokyo’s way of life – from the long walks to catch my ride in the fast and efficient Tokyo metro; roaming the usual touristic destinations within the metro – Roponggi, Shibuya, Omotesando, Asakusa, Ginza, Disneyland; frequenting my life support system of grocery shops, malls, pharmacy, and Starbucks in the Toyosu neighborhood where I lived and in Chiyoda-ku where I worked; watching 3D movies, the Cirque de Soleil, Yonex Badminton Open, and Disney on Ice or regularly playing badminton in Shibuya or Kinshicho with cherished friends in and outside of work to even the occasional videoke sessions whenever someone’s birthday merited a long night of melodious noise and good company.
On top of these were my weekend adventures that allowed me to breathe in the fabric of Japan’s ancient and modern cultures – being awed by Yokohama’s majestic sunset and nightscape in winter when the dark blue sky becomes a perfect canvass for the bedazzling city lights; immersing in the revelry of Yoyogikoen as people trooped to the park to view the cherry blossoms in spring and enjoyed a picnic under the blooms and multi-colored foliage of the trees; hiking up Mt. Takao one summer day and on reaching the summit finding out that Mt. Fuji’s ice-capped cone could be seen; and photo-trekking in Showa Kinen Park just before autumn, basking in the sun and feasting my lens on the field of colorful daisies that lay at the end of our walk.
These and many other fun moments, whether taken alone or with my friends were really icing on the cake. Overall, it has been a wonderful life journey. Given another chance in the future, I would like to go back and taste the rest 0f the cake.
(Originally published in FilJap Magazine 2013. Visit Arlene’s Facebook page Foto Zubuano for more of her Japan photos.)