Hello everyone! I am Heena and heres my story of how I stumbled upon Japan by chance. This island country, a place that was never on my list and my first reaction to when I landed there, during the train ride into the capital, why am I even here in this urban jungle?
So How? Why? Where? What? When? Japan
I grew up like almost everyone else wanting to do ‘higher’ studies in the United States of America. Even though my USA visa was rejected in 2010, the plan never left my mind until the middle of 2012. The year when the world was supposed to end actually changed my life forever.
I was close to completing 2 years of B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology, Sikkim when my mum called and said, ‘you’re going to Japan on a study tour.’ At that moment I realised that I knew nothing about Japan, except that my friend worked there and they have plenty of earthquakes. A week later she said, ‘you should stay back after the tour and travel around by yourself.’ I thought my mum was crazy because I had just turned 20 and I had barely even travelled by myself through my own country.
I started my research and learnt about the Japan Rail pass being for 7, 14 and 21 days. I studied the things to do in Japan so deep and my friend added his knowledge to it as well. Since being in Japan was going to be expensive, I decided to make an 18 day trip and let my mum know that. Hearing that and she being the ‘Gujarati’, she said ‘If you’re getting the 21 day rail pass, travel for all 21 days’. And there began my actually planning for spending 9days of the study tour plus 21 days of travelling alone through the land of the rising sun.
Japan Guide was and has always been my main website to look up information about the must visit places whereas Hyperdia for all train details. I put in about 3 months of studying for that one beautiful and perfect first trip. Apart from hotels in the first 9 days which were booked by the study tour organisers and the one night I decided to stay in a basic ryokan, I decided to couch surf for all 20 nights, all throughout Japan. It was my first time to couch surf ever and even though I was a bit skeptical, my friend, an avid Couchsurfer assured me that there was no better and safer place to start Couchsurfing anyway.
There began a journey, that changed me forever and my higher education plans. I fell in love with Japan as I experienced being happy for 31 straight days unlike ever before. I learnt about the advanced technology and their impeccable managerial skills, truly a mechanical engineers dream. I was left speechless and in silent tears as I flew back to base leaving me with wanting to return to home country of Toyota once again.
I fulfilled my dream of living here for at least a year, wanting to catch different parts of Japan in different seasons; during these years. I applied to one school in the heart of the industrial city of Kitakyushu for the masters program and got through right away. It was also one of the top 100 universities for engineering in the world and the best private university in Japan. This let me live and experience Japan. This changed me even more. This left me wanting to visit over and over again. This taught me it was never and was never going to be enough.
Towards the end of my masters, I got a technical remote part time job which got converted into a full time job right after I graduated and that allowed me to move back home. This also meant being able to visit this country that taught me so much once; in a while. So I went back on my first business trip where work was 3 days and rest of the month was spent backpacking at leisure.
This pre covid-19 year called for another business trip where I spent a week working and 2 weeks travelling around. Who would have thought that could be the last one for a long time.
So far, so 45/47
4 trips down and I have managed to explore most of this country where I bagged my masters degree. I have travelled through 45 prefectures and just got 2 more to go. I put my heart and soul into digging deeper into this culturally rich nation and managed have experiences that even locals haven’t known of. I can’t wait to share a unique story for every prefecture and experience with you.
Prefectures of Japan
Are you excited? I am very. Hit me up with your questions in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them all in the upcoming stories. Stay tuned every Friday at 1600hrs IST for a new story. For reminders follow me on @explorer.heena . For other updates check out @heenalovestoeat and @explorers.vault