What fascinates me the most about Japan is its people! Japanese are very hard working and innovative, yet they are bound by values and tradition.
--By Dr Gaurav Raj Dhakal
I believe there is some connection between Japan and me. Besides its technological advancement, vehicles, beautiful alleys, Shinto shrines and sea food, the Japanese people, their politeness and hospitality are the facets that draw me to this country.
When I received the invitation from the University Hospital of Toyama to spend a week, I did not harbour second thoughts. The reverse transit through Doha was not very exciting. It’s always difficult to spend more than six hours in any transit airport. All modern airports provide the same facilities from food to duty free shops. However, the similarities between Doha and the rest end here. As one steps into Hammad International Airport, the language and people seem familiar. Qatar has a large number of migrant population. I utilized the surplus time to interact with the airport workers and gain a firsthand knowledge about their living conditions. Majority of them seemed satisfied; it did not seem as bad as reported in the international news channels.
It was my first flight in the all new Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” to Tokyo. It is the most fuel efficient wide-body airliner and the world’s first to use composite materials in its airframe. The windows are larger with smart glass technology and the cabin pressure is programmable to maintain comfort levels. The 26C at the emergency exit has become my desired seat because of the extra leg room and the ease of ingress and egress.
Another first for me was the night stay at the “First Class Cabin” at Haneda Airport. These are small cubicle-styled rooms with amenities such as TV, free wifi, charging ports, night gown and slippers. Strict silence has to be maintained and mobile phones should be in silent mode and television audio is through earphones. The shower and toilets are common but clean. With the price of 6000 Yen, it was cheaper than other airport hotels.
Toyama is located in the west coast of Japan and is an hour’s flight from Tokyo. The striking feature of this city is the surrounding hills which gently merge with the coastline. Toyama is famous for its sea food. Toyama Bay is known as a “natural fish tank” with its sea floor dropping sharply to form a submarine canyon close to the shore. The restaurants serve a plethora of fresh sea food. Toyama Bay Sushi, Yellowtail sashimi, red snow crab and pink shrimp are the mouthwatering delicacies. My personal favourite was the Ramen and the Squid Tempura flushed with a mug of Asahi! When in Japan, a visit to an authentic Japanese restaurant is a must. During the entire stay, I was living on Japanese food.
The bank of the Matsukawa river, which snakes through the city, provides a beautiful Sakura viewing location. A leisurely boat ride makes for a good memory. The Alpine route when opened in spring time provides the most impressive view of the giant snow wall towering 20 meters high. It is a popular tourist attraction and attracts visitors from around the globe. Toyama boasts of a number of historic hot springs which are the ultimate destinations for de-stressing and serenity. Shopping in Japan can be expensive. It is always better to ask the locals about bargain stores and decent clothing shops. The people are very friendly and always eager to help. The older generation does not speak English and most of the street signs are in Japanese. However, the younger generation does make an effort to communicate in English.
What fascinates me the most about Japan is its people! Japanese are very hard working and innovative, yet they are bound by values and tradition. The manner in which the country has been rebuilt post WWII is something we need to learn. My time in Toyama elapsed very quickly; this was my second visit to Japan. The first was at Sendai after the Fukushima disaster!
The author is a Spine Surgeon at Norvic International Hospital, Nepal, and a Fellow of the Association of Spine Surgeon’s of India. Besides Spine Surgery, he is an avid traveler.