Certified Country Girl: Enjoying the Longest Golden Week in Japan

It’s one of the longest Golden Weeks I’ve had while staying here in Japan, and possibly the longest in the country, thanks to ascension of a new Emperor. I heard that some people are not happy about it, what with the lack of childcare and the reduced salary of some. But I’m not complaining.

It feels like the longest vacation I’ve had in years, and I’ve long been waiting for a real vacation. Even though I had high hopes for last year’s summer vacation, I ended up working almost everyday, coaching for the speech contest and participating in summer events. Winter vacation was no different as I had more than a dozen visitors.

But this time was different. I had my apartment all to myself and I almost had zero appointments, except for the occasional meeting with friends. I played tennis with friends on the first day of vacation.

Tried to play is probably more accurate. The wind was blowing so strongly that before long, we decided to quit. We decided to go to karaoke right then and there, and we didn’t regret it. I got to try singing some of the newest Japanese songs I’ve heard, as well as some English, Tagalog, and Korean favorites.

My friends enjoyed rocking to their kind of songs, most of them Japanese and I too thought it was interesting to learn what kind of music they appreciate. For a moment, I asked myself why I decided to schedule something the first day of vacation because normally when I have a chance to rest, my first priority is to get some alone time. This might sound weird to some but I’m an introvert after all (believe it or not!) and whenever I say I have to visit 21 preschools until the start of summer, they understand.

I’m in the countryside where people normally assume things are more laid-back but in my almost five years here, I never felt that way, except perhaps during my first summer here. But then, I ended up visiting a family friend and boredom was quickly replaced by new experiences and additional acquaintances.

Most of the people I know have some sort of plan for this Golden Week – a trip, a family outing, going back to their hometown, etc. I didn’t have one. I figured I didn’t want to expect a lot and add even more to the traffic on the road and to the crowd on the trains.

I didn’t go out for three days starting Sunday. I slept in, and organized papers and documents that I put off doing for the last few years. I didn’t realize it would be a lot of work. By the third day, I figured I should schedule something, anything that would require me to go outside the apartment.

That is why I found myself in one of my favorite hang outs – Dotonbori in Osaka. It seems I and my family never get tired of going there. A number of Americans have told me they don’t like it much because it seems to lack culture compared to Kyoto and other places. But for me, the hustle and bustle in this strip is somewhat comforting. It’s a tad different from where I live in the countryside and yet familiar because you can see different kinds of people, including Filipinos and Chinese, which reminds me of Manila.

It would probably be nicer to go there when it’s not a holiday, though there weren’t as many people as I expected. Still, after one hour in Osaka, I was raring to get home. I felt a sense of relief that I have a different place to go back to where there are fields nearby and there aren’t nearly as many people. I felt thankful that I can walk to work most days of the week and that getting to work and going back home isn’t like the battle it was like when I was staying in Manila. I guess I’m a country girl after all.