In March 2014, I was selected to be a cultural ambassador for the Jenesys 2.0 program which was held from May-June 2014. This program aims to promote potential interest abroad about Japan, including the campaign 'cool Japan', in order to increase tourism and visitors.
Candidates for the Jenesys 2.0 were selected from various ASEAN countries, New Zealand and Australia. In total there were approximately 380 people on the program. Everyone travelled to Tokyo where we stayed for 9 days in total.
As a Jenesys 2.0 candidate, I have a responsibility to promote Japanese culture to my family, friends and others through social media. I hope you enjoy discovering Japan through my posts and visit Japan one day too. I promise that you will absolutely love it!
Day 1: The beginning of our Jenesys adventure
Australian delegates travelled to Sydney Airport to catch our flight with Japan Airlines, to Japan at 7am. Approximately 80 delegates from all over Australia were on the program, some were high-school students, while others uni or TAFE students and 2 teachers as supervisors. Everyone was super excited to be going to Japan, and even though it was our first time meeting one another, we all knew by the end of the trip we were going to become good friends.
We boarded the flight and the fact that we were going to Japan was finally starting to sink in!! The flight would only be about 9 hours long, so we would be landing in Japan in no time at all!!!!
Immediately after lift off hot green tea and Japanese rice crackers were served as an entree meal.
My choice for the main meal was a chicken curry, which came with one of my favourite Japanese noodles; soba. (Pictured below) Japan Airlines is a very reputable airline, and the food has always been delicious when I've flown with them.
Finally after 9 hours we had arrived at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan! Woo!! I was sooooo excited to finally be back in Japan... I had missed Japan so much... (ToT)
We were welcomed by some lovely Jenesys staff members at the airport. Seeing the sign 'Jenesys 2.0' and knowing it was meant for us, was such an exhilarating feeling!!! After everyone had gathered together, we were then sorted into either the bus A or bus B group. I was placed into bus B. :)
As we boarded the bus, the two helpers handed us an origami crane as a small gift. We had just arrived in Japan, and we were already experiencing a small aspect of Japanese culture!
As we all boarded bus B, we each received a coloured lanyard with our names, country and the prefecture we would be visiting in Japan on it. My lanyard was black, so I was part of the Kagoshima A team! For most of the Jenesys 2.0 trip, we would be travelling together as the Australian Bus B group, and get to know each other intimately!
So our first stop as the official Australian Bus B group was to our dinner at a Japanese restaurant.
This restaurant had a very 'Japanese feel' to it! We went downstairs to find our reserved room. In this area we needed to remove our shoes and leave them outside, as we are not allowed to ever walk in shoes on tatami mats! (Very important rule to remember!!) The interior was very nicely done, and was the perfect location to introduce everyone to Japanese food culture. Why? Because we ate sitting cross legged on cushions in a Japanese styled room, and were served traditional food: sashimi! (raw fish) Also, before we all began eating our meals, we all cried 'Kanpai' in unison. (cheers in Japanese)
After everyone had finished dinner, we all headed off to the nearby conbini to buy some snacks (convenience store in Japanese), which happened to be a Lawson store. Conbini in Japan are very very very awesome, seriously. Why? They have EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you will you ever need. Not only that, they are almost on every corner.
Cool Japan #2: Conbini
- Very reasonably priced (cheap, really)
- In big cities, they are usually open 24/7
- From drinks to snacks, stockings, magazines, toys, ice cream, instant meals, ingredients for cooking, they will have anything you want to buy (Also have interesting seasonal products)
- Provide free access to toilets quite often (hard to come by public toilets in Japan)
- Easy to find since there are so many
*In Japan there are a few major conbini stores: 7eleven, Family Mart, Lawson.
After our little expedition to the nearby conbini, we all boarded the bus and headed to our hotel: New Otani Hotel Makuhari, located in the Chiba prefecture. (40 minutes to Tokyo by train) After we arrived, everyone from Bus B was placed in a room with a couple of others, and I finally met my 2 roommates !!!! My roommate Brie was from Newcastle while Samara was from a city in Western Australia!! I've never met anyone from either of those areas, so it was interesting learning about their lives and cities :)
|*Picture from: http://videogamesdaily.com/japan/200910/gaijin-gamers-instant-guide-to-the-conbini/|
We were all quite exhausted, however that didn't stop us from exploring the nearby area. Chiba isn't near central Tokyo, but it was still quite lively! Near the hotel we were staying at, was a MASSIVE shopping centre called AEON mall, which only took 10 minutes to reach by foot. In the other direction, was the a train station, lots of restaurants, a game centre and more. Since it was raining and we were quite exhausted, we headed back shortly after.
On our way back, we stopped by another conbini which is where I bought soba noodles! This is a traditional Japanese food eaten year round, but this style soba is especially popular in Spring/Summer! This packet only cost about $2, plus it was super fresh and delicious.
Cool Japan #3: Seasonal foods
- Each season summer, winter, autumn & spring has its own special foods
- Places such as conbinis, restaurants and supermarkets will change the foods served depending on the season
- For example fresh soba noodles are only sold in spring/summer and are not available during the winter season
- In spring time 'sakura' flavoured foods are very popular
- McDonalds this spring released a sakura burger & drink
- Haagen Dazs also released a sakura ice cream flavour (which was DELICIOUS)
After we returned back to our hotel room, us girls had some girl talk and I watched a bit of Japanese TV before sleeping.
That's about it for my first day on the Jenesys 2.0 trip. Stay tuned for more posts soon! :-)
- New Zealand
Areas teams visited in Japan:
- Kagoshima (my area)