Retro pictures, #mondaymemories of my first overseas solo trip in 1998. Destination, Japan. Overall experience, extremely educational and enlightening!
While digging for the Hardy Boys books I mentioned in my previous post, I came across these. The film photos from my first overseas solo trip to Japan in 1998.
All were faded and terribly amateurish, but nonetheless precious to me; all were shot over ten days in February and March 1998. During a trip I could only describe as eye-opening and humbling.
You see, back then, the Internet was hardly as informative or as pervasive as it is today. Most of my travel information thus came from dog-eared public library books. With these books seldom providing precise information the likes of today’s Google Maps.
To give you an idea of the kind of difficulty I wrangled with throughout this solo trip, none of the photocopied maps I brought with me remotely depicted the area they represent. Perhaps for reasons of limited printing space, these maps also only indicated the main roads but never the many alleys in between.
On day 1, yours pathetically lugged my luggage around for near an hour before I located my ryokan. That evening, I got utterly lost in Shinjuku. It took me half an hour before I found Studio Alta. (I used the West Exit instead of the East)
PS: The following retro photos are nowhere near the quality of what I’ve been posting on this blog. Not only were these shot with a cheap camera, I had no clue at all about photography back then. I didn’t even know what aperture size or shutter speed meant.
Interlude, if you would permit me.
And in advance, I apologise if I come across as unnecessarily maudlin.
Within 48 hours of this first-ever solo trip to Japan, something big dawned on me. As in, literally. I painfully realised that living in a tiny country like Singapore hemmed in my mentality in more ways than one. Beginning with how I expected every location to be compact or within walking distance.
I was positively terrified when I stepped out of the Narita Express at Tokyo Station. Not even the largest mall in Singapore back then was the size of this transportation behemoth, not to mention the number of people shuffling, dashing, and sprinting within it.
And then you have the neighbourhoods, and the subway stations, the latter often with underpasses longer than any I’ve ever been in. It was … eye-opening, to say the least. Didn’t help too that in all previous holidays I was conveniently ferried about by a coach. I never had to walk by myself, with luggage, for more than a few yards.
In a nutshell, this 1998 adventure in Japan permanently changed my perceptions about myself and Singapore. Not entirely in a positive way too, if I might add. Why so? Well, I think I should leave that for another post.
Background for this 1998 Japan Solo Trip
A little bit about what led to this solo trip. Please try not to roll your eyes after reading too.
In November 1997, I strolled into a gaming shop at Singapore’s City Plaza and ended up buying an art book. This being a collection of the illustrations Kaneko Kazuma did for Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner (Sega Saturn).
Hard for me to explain what happened next, it was rather heady, but by the New Year, I was determined to visit Japan. In fact, I was so determined to go, I went right in the middle of my tertiary school semester; during my one-week break in late February, to be specific.
Looking back, it was decisively overboard, I actually skipped several days of school to do it. But, oh well, I acquired some important life skills from this adventure. Things I would never learn in school too. Again, maybe I’d someday write about these skills.