Trip to Japan – Raphael Haddad

Dec , 2016

Hello Everyone,

untitledDuring April I was lucky enough to travel throughout Japan. This also coincided with the famed cherry blossom season! It was my second time travelling through this beautiful and intriguing country. But unlike last time I was armed with basic conversational Japanese! This was going to prove to be a very useful skill!

It all started at Osaka International Airport.

“Sumimasen, Pen o karitemoiidesuka”?
(Excuse me, can I use a pen?)


My first words on Japanese soil!  I hit Mr Ojiisan (old man) up with some classic Genki Book 1.  I had executed a clear and understandable Japanese sentence right off the bat. Unfortunately the gentleman didn’t have a pen but I was directed to an area where I could fill out my Immigration card. But that was ok, more importantly I wanted to get my Japanese off and running straight away! I didn’t want to shy away from speaking the native language. Best just to get stuck in!

I often found myself having conversations with Japanese people on trains.  On one occasion I spoke to a nice lady on a train trip to Nara. She was delightful and I had a long chat mostly in Japanese! She told me about the area and how the building on the 10 Yen coin was in the area. I was also given Sakura flavoured Turkish delight to try!!!
iJapanese skills get you sweets from Obaasan (old lady).

ken2 years ago I went to a bar in Tokyo with my brother. It was a great night! And was a highlight of my previous trip.  I had decided to visit the same bar 2 years later! Most of the same people were there! I was greeted with AUSTRALIA! It was nice that I was remembered! But what really made the night was how I managed to speak mostly in Japanese this time. Everybody was quite shocked when I just started speaking Japanese. The constant praises of ‘Jyouzu’ (‘great’) and ‘ehhhhhh’ was most encouraging.

iJapanese skills rewards you with looks of admiration.

Be it Subways, JR trains or Shinkansens travelling in Japan is easy! However if by chance I didn’t know what platform to take or I had confusion I could always rely on asking in Japanese.

iJapanese skills gets you going in the right direction.


One day I visited Himeji Jo Castle. And apart from viewing its obvious beauty and the surrounding cheery blossoms which were in full bloom (Mankai). I was invited to do Hanami! Sitting on mats underneath cherry blossoms while snacking on picnic food and drink. Enjoying the company of Kansai people!


In my first week, I based myself in Koshien, Ninshinomiya. It’s an area in between Osaka and Kobe in the Hyogo prefecture. I used Airbnb for most of my accommodation alongside Hostels. I totally recommend it as you have the opportunity of staying with Japanese people! My host couldn’t speak English that well. However that was great because I had the opportunity to use Japanese even more so in the home setting! Saying things like ‘ittekimasu’(I’m leaving) and ‘tadaima’(I’m home) enhanced the Japanese experience. Also watching a film with my host about Romans played by Japanese actors and actresses while sitting on a traditional tatami mat does the trick too. Simply witnessing daily life in the community was special for me. Walking past the local school, stopping by to my local convenience store (Family mart, Lawsons ect) then heading to one of two trains stops located near me was part of my daily routine. After a week I was very familiar with the Hanshin line. Koshien is known for it’s old Baseball stadium. So it was only natural to adopt the Hanshin Tigers Baseball team. Tigers IKEEE (Go Tigers)!


  • Hanging out with my yakuza friends…. just kidding. Seriously my Japanese friends were great. I hope I can see them again sometime in the near future. Make as many friends as possible at the language exchanges!!
    iJapanese gets you buddies. 
  • Seeing iJapanese teachers! – Seeing Ayano sensei and Kisai sensei was quite nostalgic. I had great evening with them in Osaka and Tokyo. Kisai san took me to a batting centre where I had heaps of fun, you should try it! I had ramen and chilled out with Ayano san and Megumi san! 
  • Conbini! Lawsons, Family Mart, 7-11 I love them all.
  • Japanese advertisements – I often found myself taking photos and videos of posters and TV advertisements. Just like two years ago it still had me fascinated, interested and cracking up.
  • Shinkansens – I can’t get enough of the Shinkansen, the smooth ultra fast train was always a highlight. It had everything from bathrooms, smoking rooms, over head luggage space and a lady that pushed a trolley packed with snacks.
  • Ghana and Calpis – 100Yen chocolate became a staple in my daily diet. Nothing like a bit of Ghana after a long day. I miss it terribly.
  • Contemporary art – I managed to visit Teshima island, Scai the bathhouse, Kanazawa’s 21 century art museum, Kobe museum. The art available in Japan is a must see.
  • Animate, Tower records and Mandarake – you wouldn’t believe the amount of anime and manga I bought from these stores.
  • Castles and super cool samurai armour.
  • Suica card!