Though it has already been a month and a few days since I came home, writing this post from my very own bedroom still feels surreal.
I left Nagoya on March 30 and arrived in Bangkok on the same day. March was my last month in Japan before moving back to Thailand, so I knew it would be a very busy month, but it ended up more hectic than expected. Especially when comparing it to fun-filled February, with post-thesis defense indulgence like NCT 127 official cafe event along with my and Jaehyun’s birthday and Doyoung’s birthday; unforgettable day trips with friends and one last long solo trip before graduation, all of which I want to write full posts about one day; and the generally relaxing atmosphere. Not that March was 100% stressful. There were happy moments and heartfelt farewells too, but in the last few weeks, a lot of things just went wrong despite my efforts to finish the pre-departure procedures early on and these exhausted me. I wish I could have spent more time in March traveling and relaxing, but since everything already happened the way it did, I want to record personal reflections and some of the memorable moments (both the good and the bad) during my last week in Japan here.
I shared some photos and parts of the stories about the last week on my Instagram already, but due to word limit, I didn’t get to write everything I wanted. I also held myself back from talking about certain things because I don’t want to be too ranty or cringey there. As weird as this may sound, I am actually not comfortable sharing some thoughts and feelings with acquaintances and some friends who are following me on IG. It is easier to express myself more on this blog, where most readers are close friends and people I have never met.
With that, I am warning you that this is a long-winded post and some parts of this post are very ranty and cringey. Musings and photos from Nagoya to Bangkok aside, here go many stories, even the most ranty and random ones, that I want to immortalize in one place.
The way I am posting this a month after Christmas… But here comes the 2021 advent calendar or the annual self-made photo challenge of my friend Selina and me. For those who have never seen this kind of posts on my blog before, Selina and I prepare 24 photography themes as our advent calendar. From December 1 to 24, we draw lots every day to decide the daily theme and take a photo for each theme. Sounds simple, but it is really fun to document what catches our attention or what we want to remember every day before Christmas.
This is our third year doing this photo challenge, but this time, I couldn’t completely stick to the rules of taking a photo every day. All the 24 photos were taken in December, but probably half of them were taken after or before theme reveals and I matched the photos with the right themes in late-December. I was struggling with thesis writing and trying to meet my academic advisor’s deadline around Christmas in order to get her comments before submitting the first draft of my thesis to my graduate school earlier in January. On some days, I wasn’t able to find an interesting subject for the theme because I holed up in my apartment writing and on other days, I was so tired or sleepy that I postponed taking photos until I had better ideas or inspirations. I lived off convenience store food mostly and even had to take a social media break near my advisor’s deadline because I was so burnt out and had no choice but to force myself to keep writing. Now I have finally submitted the first draft of my thesis to my school though and while the thesis defense and final revisions are looming closer, I still want to get this post out before that.
I am sorry for the long and boring rant, but before going into the photos, I also would like to write here—to keep it as a memory—that I am very thankful for my family and friends in Thailand and Japan as well as Selina (who lives in another country) for all the encouragement. Actually, my struggles will not be over until I submit the final version of my thesis, but finishing the first draft was still a big step and the mental support I receive from them is no less important than academic support. And in spite of all the stress I went through before sending my advisor the thesis in December, I had very memorable Christmas and New Year celebrations with my friends in Japan, which I hope to write about in detail one day. I also got to watch NCT 127’s online concert about one week before my advisor’s deadline. NCT 127 members had very packed schedules from the third quarter last year, but they managed to prepare for the concert in short time and delivered great group performances as well as solo stages (bias fangirling time: Doyoung co-writing the lyrics for his solo and Jaehyun composing and writing his solo and working with one of my favorite producers to prepare a special rearrangement of the song for this concert!). I gained strength and motivation from their performances and words during the concert.
End of rant and appreciation paragraphs. Let’s see the photos now. All photos were taken in Nagoya and I am sorting them in theme reveal order, not the actual dates I took the photos.
Considering Shiretoko’s location, we can see why the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido thought so. Shiretoko Peninsula is Japan’s most northeastern area. It is also one of the country’s best-preserved nature zones where wildlife abounds, earning its statuses as Shiretoko National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I took the first train of the day from Kushiro to Shiretoko Shari Station, the gateway to this eden of the far northeast. Though Shiretoko (or siretok in the original Ainu spelling) means the end of the earth as in how the cape protrudes and is situated in a remote area, the rain and the fog that day also made me think of the apocalyptic kind of the end of the world.
Still, the beauty of nature inevitably brought bliss.
Home to Japan’s biggest marshland with rare Japanese red-crowned cranes (tancho) and the bountiful sea with the country’s largest annual catch, Kushiro is Hokkaido’s fourth biggest city with well-preserved nature, fresh seafood galore, and one of the world’s three best sunset spots chosen by well-traveled sailors. And yet, this beautiful place remains undiscovered by many tourists. If it weren’t for Kushiro and Kushiro Marshland (also known as Kushiro Shitsugen National Park and Kushiro Wetlands) being the inspiration behind Pastoria City (Nomose City in Japanese) and the Great Marsh in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, my curiosity about this under-the-radar city might not have been piqued.
It seems this swampy seaside city is often in the mood for mystery anyway. Shrouded in fog on the average of over 100 days a year, Kushiro has earned the reputation of Japan’s foggiest city and exudes mysterious aura on those days.
I visited Kushiro in August. The height of the foggy season.
#giftograph_film chapter 3: Kodak M35 film camera and Cinestill 50D (Most indoor shots and doll photos were taken with my mirrorless camera.)
Time flies and before I knew it, I have less than eight months left as a student in Japan.
Let’s rewind to January in 2019. I just learned that the MEXT Scholarship committee has decided to send me to Nagoya University, so I wrote this post about my trip to Nagoya as a tourist in 2015 for reflection purposes. I thought Nagoya isn’t an impressive city, but it still has some nice attractions and is rich in samurai era history, despite not looking like it what with its strong industrialized image and mostly modern buildings. During my 2015 trip, I traveled in Nagoya for only one day and mainly used the city as a base while I explored the bigger draws nearby like Inuyama, Takayama, and Shirakawa-go, so I promised myself that after moving to Nagoya in April, 2019, I would take my three years as a student as the opportunity to get to know Nagoya better.
While I am still going to continue writing about Hokkaido, I want to throw in some posts about Nagoya and nearby from time to time since I haven’t been writing enough about where I live and my three years in Japan are almost over… It has also been so long since I last made a film photography post, so it is time for a Nagoya article with the first batch of film photos I took in Japan in October, 2020. I was back from Bangkok for about a month, the COVID-19 situation in Nagoya improved, and the autumn air was pleasant, so what better time to test the Kodak M35 reloadable film camera I bought when I went back to Thailand. It was also a good time to visit the uncrowded and underexplored places in Nagoya that I hadn’t been to for photography inspirations. The photography trip ended up being very interesting for me and I enjoyed the different vibes from the Nagoya attractions that I visited in 2015. More laid-back and more local overall and also historic. It was a lovely surprise that embodies “old is gold”. But unlike the gold rush, most of these old spots in Nagoya haven’t been discovered yet by the majority of international travelers. I hope these places won’t become too commercialized, but they do deserve more attention, so when the pandemic is over and you can come to Nagoya, do consider visiting these hidden gems before Nagoya experiences the (g)old rush. If that still doesn’t sound appealing enough, let me tell you that all these places are free to enter and conveniently located near subway stations.