Watching a Movie in Japan

Up to this writing, my husband and I have taken joy in watching 21 movies in the movie theatre and 135 movies at home. Savouring an ice cream in the course of watching a movie has become a staple. As a matter of fact, this week, we watched an Olympic-themed movie called Race. We decided to go on a Wednesday because movie tickets are sold at a discount for ladies. In Japan, every Wednesday is Ladies Day. Instead of paying the regular ¥1,800 (Php 830), I could get it for ¥1,100 (Php 510).

Say, the display shows that movie starts at 13:00. The actual movie doesn’t really start at that time. Trailers and ads are played first so the movie is shown at 13:10~15. As for cultural differences, expect to sit with a bizarrely quiet audience (even during humorous scenes) and to stay in your seat until after the credits finish rolling (a way to show respect to the makers). On a personal level, my husband recommends me not to buy strong-smelling chips and to munch noiselessly as consideration to other moviegoers. The freedom I had in the Philippines, I suddenly miss.

AEON Cinema, our go-to movie theatre
movie ticket vending machines



This is the “correct sitting” in Japan called Seiza (正座). Japanese people sit in this manner when sitting on a tatami.

With knees together, back straight and buttocks resting on ankles, I sit restlessly as I am being formally introduced to the Nakazawas. My husband commences his mini speech to an audience of 15.

Husband: This is my wife, Maiden. We met 4 years ago and got married last year. She can’t speak Japanese so please bear with her. (As far as my Japanese is concerned, I could only comprehend this.)

My husband signals. It is my turn. All eyes are on me now. At this point, I am already breaking out in a cold sweat. Nevertheless, I speak.

I: Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Maiden to moushimasu. Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. Douzo Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Nice to meet all of you. Please call me Maiden. I can understand a little Japanese. Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. 

I bow.

They bow.

Only to realize I made a lousy bow.

I crack a smile.

Note: The definition of “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is really hard. It’s one of those words that isn’t really translatable. It’s a concept that’s hard to grasp and hard to define in the English language. In general, you’ll want to use this one in more formal situations, with people that have a higher status than you, and basically anytime you’re not sure which one to use.

“Be Kind to me”

“I am in your debt”

“I’m counting on you”

“Please help me”

“Please take care of me”

“Nice to meet you”

My First Golden Week

Golden Week is an anticipated time when a Japanese “salaryman” gets a week off. This is the longest vacation in Japan falling around the end of April and the beginning of May. It is so longingly celebrated in this country as paid vacation is relatively limited. The term “Golden Week” was coined by a radio director in the 80s who based it on “golden time” or the highest listener ratings.

This is my first Golden Week. As the majority of the Japanese would do, my husband goes back to his hometown. This time, with me. I have an inadequate knowledge of the family that awaits me but I came to an agreement with myself –  to treat them the same way I want my loved ones to be treated. Nagahama City is a 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. It is exactly the same distance of my hometown from Manila. 450 km means a 10-12 hour train ride though. 

bullet train

new map

A Note to myself in 2007


One of the reasons why people get so sentimental is because memories are the only things that don’t change when everything else does. There are things in life that you can’t hold on forever, no matter how much you fight for it. Sometimes destiny isn’t always good, it becomes playful. When you meet someone you learned to love, you may think it is destiny which made your paths cross. But what if making your paths cross is just a part of the game the playful destiny creates, making you realize in the end that the person you thought was destined for you wasn’t really meant to stay but only destined to make you feel love and leave you when you are already fallen. It’s sure not easy to state a reason when you decide to leave your love.

I can never own something that was never mine so I should stop gripping on things I expect to last forever. Nothing lasts forever. Forever is a big lie. Everything is transitory. So while you have something in your hand, put in mind that it is just borrowed so that someday when it’s gone, it won’t take you eternity just to let it go. When your feelings get strong for someone, it’s always wise to stop and give your heart a time to breathe. A time to use your mind to weigh the situation based on reason and not on emotion because the saddest thing that can happen is when one falls in love while the other wants nothing more than companionship. Love sometimes can be magic but magic can sometimes be an illusion. There are times when I wish that I was limited to certain emotions so that I’ll never have to experience pain, never feel betrayed or disappointed, and never get my fragile heart broken. But that same thing means I’ll never know how it feels to love and be loved in return. The thought of it scares me. Is it better to have a heart that’s whole but numb or a heart that is broken but real?

Someday, we’ll all be looking back to those days when we learned to love, get hurt, cry and fight. Maybe when that time comes, we’ll all be laughing at our old dumb selves realizing how stupid we were to stand up for things we knew weren’t really meant for us. But I guess learning takes time, and mistakes make one journey fun. Life is what we make it. Love makes the world go round. So let’s live, love and take whatever pain it brings. Though it’s hard to wait around for something that I know will never happen, it’s harder to stop when I know it’s everything I’ve always wanted.

But you know what? I’m glad, I’m still glad it happened.

Yellow Strips for the Blind

I don’t want to have a strong liking for any country as equal as my own. If I feel that way, I’d become less Filipino I thought. I’m horrified when the day comes that I’d feel iffy about living in the Philippines again because of the everyday comfort this country offers me. Am I still in the honeymoon stage of living abroad? Most likely. But this country gave me another reason to appreciate it. Here is my recent discovery. 

There exist tactile pavings or yellow strips that provide a continuous route for pedestrians who are blind. This is designed to help the them navigate streets, crossings, entrance to stairs, subways and platforms and so on. What a considerate society this is! If my country embraces this, I can imagine the comfort this would bring to my fellow Filipinos who are visually impaired. 

The original tactile paving was developed by Seiichi Miyake in 1965. The paving was first introduced in a street in Okayama City, Japan, in 1967. Its use gradually spread in Japan and then around the world. It’s modern form can be classified into two types. One has small, round bumps upon the surface of the block, which are felt through a sole. This is to prepare the visually impaired to cross a street, enter a train station or a store. The second type of a block is a directional aid. Long and slender bumps are installed in the surface. Wikipedia

The visually impaired can press this to know the status of the traffic light. Different melodies are played according to the traffic signal.

An Unexpected Nostalgia


Gone are the days when I would stopover a movie rental shop after school and come home with some movie my siblings would fuss about. Having memberships in Video City, American Home and KNK sure made our teenage years less lifeless. But some years ago, I have witnessed a slow death of this industry. I, along with many other fellowmen, started to yearn for illegitimate copies. The influx of cheap, pirated CDs and DVDs and the popularity of Torrent movie files gradually wiped it out. At present, there is no single movie rental shop in my hometown, Naga City.

I never thought I would set foot in a movie rental shop again.

Renting an old movie costs ¥80 (Php 35) while a new release costs ¥200 (Php 82) and above


In Japan, Illegal downloaders are punishable with jail terms. If you are found in possession of pirated materials, it could result to a 2-year imprisonment or a fine of 2 million yen. For this reason, the rental industry is thriving and is patronized by the Japanese. 

Members can rent not only movies but also music CDs and comic books. Rental shops also have this isolated room for adults only. I did not dig into that though.



Take Away in Japan


お持ち帰り頂けます(omochi kaeri itadakemasu) literally means you can bring the food home

At a Japanese Restaurant

  • Waiter: こちらでお召し上がりですか?こちらでおめしあがりですか?
  • Customer 1: ここで食べます。ここでたべます.
  • Customer 2: 持ち帰りでお願いします。もちかえりでおねがいします.
  • Waiter: Are you going to eat here? Kochira de omeshi agari desu ka?
  • Customer 1: For here. Koko de tabemasu.
  • Customer 2: To go, please. Mochikaeri de onegaishimasu.