JAPAN, oh such beauty. Such impression was made on me in my very first visit here two weeks ago. It thrilled me by the day and it amazed me by night. Its splendor seemed limitless.

From the time, I stepped out of an excellent Cebu Pacific flight onto Narita International Airport (NRT) from Clark, beauteous things started to unravel. Never mind the warm weather which went humid at some point in our four-day trip to the land of the rising sun.

I and my media colleagues, although some of them frequent visitors already (Bong Lacson, Ashley Manabat), had the grandest of time as our journey combined the warmth of the city, the breeze of the countryside, the technological wonders and even the traditional sites (and sights) – albeit part of the never-ending modernity, rich culture and heritage of Japan.

Our gracious hosts Japan National Tourism Office and the Leading Versatile Solution Inc. travel agency in Tokyo, in cooperation with Selrahco Management and Consultancy made sure we would see (and savor) the best of all these.

Modernity at the Onset

Right from NRT, one traveller need not look far how Japan continues to upgrade its facilities. Yes, there are on-going improvements (to bring its capacity from 300,000 arrivals and departures by 2020) but that did not stall nor delay us at all from disembarkation up to the time we were picked up by our bus.

From there, we proceeded to Toyosu in Tokyo where teamLab Planets, a museum powered by technology of 4 vast exhibition spaces at its center, and 7 works of art. The artworks are based on art collective teamLab’s concept of “Body Immersive”.

The massive Body Immersive space consists of a collection of installations in which the entire body becomes deluged in the art, and the boundaries between the viewer and the work become ambiguous.

Visitors enter the museum barefoot, and become immersed with other visitors in the vast installation spaces.

The Soft Black Hole makes your body become a space and influences another body. But don’t tell that to Deng Pangilinan as he got stuck and sank through a path of soft pillows and cushions where, in the deep black, other people are also strewn as either they try to walk out across the hall or lay to rest.

Highlight of this visit is the drawing on the water surface created by the dance of Kois and people who waded through. Oh the infinite illumination made by Crystal Universe made of tens of thousands of LED lights with wall to wall floor mirrors also made me feel I was into sci-fi adventure.

Day Delights

Going to Japan without seeing Mt. Fuji is like going to New York without taking even a mere glimpse of the statue of Liberty. But ours was more than just a peep of the majestic mountain.

Atop the Arakura Mountain Sengen Park, lo and behold, Mt. Fuji, ever amazing in its glory on a bright sunny morning, gave us a site to die for.

On a view deck after climbing 397 steps, one is also given the bonus of seeing a five-storey pagoda and a panoramic view of Fujiyoshida City.

Too bad that we did not go there on a spring that could have given us a truly gorgeous landscape with flowering cherry trees. Too bad too that I was sort of out of shape that I had to battle symptoms of dehydration after the climb on hot and humid day.

Did I regret the climb? Not even a bit.

Passing by the countryside and at some point some industrial areas in the two hour travel to see Mt. Fuji, I can’t help but wonder to see some rice paddies in the midst of some residential houses and neighborhood establishments.

The Hakone Open Air Museum at the Kanagawa Prefecture is Japan’s first outdoor art and open air museum. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It was named after the scenic Hakone mountains nearby which lend an even more mesmerizing experience in seeing the abstract sculptures by Japanese and foreign artists. Yes, the verdant field is dotted with various artworks as you walk around its parks and even a hot spring.

Don’t be deceived now as it also has an indoor display of Picasso arts where there are about 300 pieces by the master.

On our way to a night cruise on Tokyo Bay, I could only be astonished by the greatness of Yokohama, one of the four major port cities of Japan and the capital of Kanagawa. With its vastness as the second largest city in Japan by population, it reminds me of the tire company in Clark where its largest manufacturing plant is located, inevitably.

On bus around Yokohama’s main roads, you would see the Minato Mirai, a seaside urban area, that is home to the Landmark Tower (said to be Japan’s tallest building from 1993 to 2014 at 296 meters), the Yamashita Park, and the Cosmo World Amusement Park where a huge Ferris wheel doubles as a clock adorn the vast harbor.

Capping a daytime tour of Japan, of course, will be the Tokyo Skytree.

At 634 meters tall, this tower mainly being used for broadcast is said to be the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure after Burj Khalifa. Atop its observatories at 350 meters and 450 meters high, one is given a panoramic view of the city.

Night Wonders

Going around at night, one should not miss seeing the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building at Shinjuku. All the more, one should not miss going to its observatory as admission free. I do not recall any observation deck I went to in New York that was for free – Top of the Rock (at Rockefeller Center), Empire State Building, One World Observatory (at the former World Trade Center).

The exterior of the 243-meter tall building with two towers are colorfully lighted at night, making it a very distinctive structure. The north and south observatories are at 202 meters, together with coffee shops, bar and souvenir store.

Highly recommended for a night cap in Japan will be a Royal Wing Cruise at Yokohama. Whether for a family, business meeting or a romantic date, this two-hour cruise with dinner is awesome. It would take you to a portion of Tokyo Bay, passing under the Yokohama Bay Bridge and would give you a look at the Minato Mirai skyline where brilliant illumination with cool breeze is exhilarating.

The Yamashita Park is a lovely spot with 750-meter length on the waterfront of Yokohama where a stroll is a must. Nearby is the vintage Hikawa Maru, which used to navigate the Yokohama Vancouver/Seattle Line that started in the 1930s. The fountains are adorable at night.

The japan-guide.com website states that there is also a monument to a Filipino general (unnamed) in the area (which I missed, regretfully), along with “an Indian memorial, a girl scout statue, two monuments to particular Japanese children songs, and even a statue of a large head commemorating the introduction of the western-style haircut to Japan.”