Background

After spending three months as a marketing intern in Hong Kong, my journey took me to my next objective in Nagoya, Japan. Saying goodbye to Hong Kong was a little sad to say the least, but luckily, my last days in HK were so busy there wasn’t too much time to think about it. In the beginning of October, I took a cheap HK express flight from Hong Kong to the Chūbu Centrair, located on an artificial island a little south of Nagoya.

After arriving in Nagoya, I moved the hour hand of my writch watch one hour forward and went to look for the welcome party, and finally got to experience the movie scene with the name sign and everything. My school, Trident College of Information Technology, was located in the city center near the Gokusai Center Station, and my dorm a twenty-minute metro ride to the east, near the Kawana Station.

The dormitory

After spending three months in a room of maybe four to five square meters, having a normal-sized room where I could stand straight and stretch my arms without getting bruises was indeed a luxury. I soon got a taste of the famous Japanese formality, as the occasion of paying my rent while giving and receiving stuff with two hands, bowing, and other courtesies, felt like I was taking part in a tea ceremony.

The dorm had a Japanase bathhouse on the top floor. You would first have shower and wash yourself thoroughly while sitting on a small stool. Only after having scrubbed yourself pink and using half-a-dozen different detergents could you enter the hoth bath in the center of the room. In Finland, we usually prefer the sauna, but submerging yourself daily in hot water can get equally addicting.

Trident College of Information Technology

Trident College of Information Technology is a computer school in the Nagoya city center, a two-minute walk from the Nagoya Station – the largest train station in the world by the floor area. The Trident students are taught how to make video games, animations, and art, among other things. During the welcome ceremony, we met and chatted with the teachers and other students in a casual atmosphere.

Besides the Finnish exchange students, there were also students from Singapore. As a pleasant coincidence, the Singaporean students were from the same school, Nangyang Polytechnic, where I would do my second exchange in the next summer. After the welcome party, we formed the game development teams and started brainstorming ideas for the project that would occupy us for the next two and a half months.

In and around Nagoya

Nagoya is a very businesslike city, and not that touristy. Having said that, there are, of course, some interesting places to see, like the Nagoya Castle, the Nagoya TV Tower, and areas like Sakae and Osu. Still, after spending several weeks in Nagoya, you will have to start using some imagination find things to do. Personally, I learned to love the everyday atmosphere in Nagoya, and especially the lack of tourist crowds.

After having exhausted the limited supply of photographable sights inside Nagoya, it’s a good idea to put the camera in the pocket and try out some local foods, go to karaoke, and enjoy the local form of the Japane culture in other ways. Outside Nagoya, we did a daytrip to Kyoto, and ascended the Inariyama mountain in the dark. I also took the train around the Ise Bay to see the Ise Grand Shrine, Japan’s most sacred shrine.

Working on a VR game

As for the game project, we decided to set the bar low and aim for – VR! We had a dream team of eight students. I was the producer, and also produced some 3D objects for the game, as I was technically supposed to be an artist. But hey, every project needs a producer! Besides me, there were also 2 artists from Singapore, and 5 programmers – 2 from Japan, 2 from Finland, and 1 from Singapore.

Our game, the Last Train, was an escape room game where the player would get trapped inside a moving train. We chose the train as the game environment to make the production as modular as possible. The player would have to solve various environmental puzzles to stop the train and to escape. As the school had a spare microphone, we recorded the train announcements both in English and in Japanese.

Despite some initial doubts, we finished all the tasks on our HacknPlan according to the schedule, and even had some time for post-production. Managing a multicultural team with four different languages was sometimes challenging, but at the same time eye-opening from a producer’s perspective. There was talk that Last Train would be displayed at the Tokyo Game Show of 2019, but it remains to be seen.

More traveling

In the middle November, I had two friends visiting me from Hong Kong on consecutive weeks. One thing that I really missed about Hong Kong while staying in Nagoya was the sea, as the Ise Bay, at least around Nagoya, was very industrialized and uninviting. Among the places that we visited were Gifu, Inuyama, and beautiful Korankei. We were also supposed to take the Toyota plant tour, but it was already reserved until Christmas.

My biggest regret was not visiting Osaka while I had the chance. A friend recommended me to take the train to Osaka on a Friday evening, to spend the Saturday exploring Nara and the evening in Osaka, to spend the Sunday exploring Osaka, and finally, to return back to Nagoya on Sunday evening. While Kyoto, for example, is a place for taking pictures, Osaka is more famous for its nightlife.

During my travels, I formed a love–hate relationship with Google Maps. The blue navigation dot proved almost useless despite countless calibrations on the streets, doing the figure-eight pattern with my phone while people staring at me. The ability to add markers to interesting locations, however, helped me to plan trips to new areas before visiting them, and keeping track of all the places I had visited so far.

Gallery

Traveling is a pleasure few others can compete with. For me, the best part of the journey is always the moment when I get to attach all the fridge magnets of all the new countries and cities on my fridge door! It’s now -18.5 °C outside while I’m writing this back in Kajaani. However, it’s less than five months before I embark on my next journey to Singapore and the South-East Asia. In the meanwhile, it’s all work and studying.

The pictures can now be found on my Intagram profile.

Saying goodbyes – again!

The Singaporean students left back to Singapore in the end of November, and 21st of December was to be our last day at school. I spent the last weeks inside Nagoya, meeting new people, going to restaurants, and trying all sorts of foods. Our game development room became quiet again as the quiet Finns were left by themselves, and my thoughts were already on the streets of Tokyo.

As in Hong Kong, I had to send home a cardboard box full of souvenirs, other stuff, and lots of books. As an avid reader, I like to buy and read lots of books while traveling. Books take space, though, and sending them back to home in big cardboard boxes can be quite pricy. As we live in a digital age, I made the decision to get the Amazon Kindle E-reader for my next journey – no more cardboard boxes!

Tokyo

The Nozomi bullet train took around an hour and a half to make the journey from Nagoya to Tokyo. After arriving at the Tokyo Station, I took the metro to the Shin-Okubo Station in Shinjuku, near my hotel, The Global Hotel Tokyo. GHT was an average capsule hotel, nothing really to complain about. Despite the concerns of my friends in Nagoya, I could just fit inside the capsule with my feet in (I’m actually 197 cm).

As I only had four nights and three full days to explore Tokyo and its surroundings, I made the decision to marathon all the big neighborhoods and get a good understanding of the basic layout of the city. There had been talk about going to see the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 with my brothers, so I assumed the role of a scout and set to work with the help of my precious Google Maps.

The places I enjoyed most in Tokyo were Shibuya and Akihabara for their lively atmospheres and somewhat compact areas. On Christmas Eve, I made a day-trip to Yokohama to see the Christmas Market at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. You can also get a nice view of Tokyo from the Yokohama Landmark Tower and see how Tokyo sort of consists of several smaller cities.

Final thoughts

My journey took me through Hong Kong to Japan, and lasted almost half a year. On one hand, it was a very long time to spend abroad, but on the other, it was such a short time during which I lived my life to the fullest. Going to two places meant that I got to see twice as much, but at the same time, I had to say goodbye to twice as many people. Saying goodbyes, it seems, is the price that you have to pay when you travel.

I had studied Japanese on and off for almost a year before my journey. I could follow basic conversations, and with the help of Kanji, I could understand some character in signs and menus. However, as the Japanese people aren’t generally very used to using English, it’s important for the visitor to know some Japanese. If a common language can’t be found, the lack of communication might limit the experience.

Traveling is a pleasure few others can compete with. For me, the best part of the journey is always the moment when I get to attach all the fridge magnets of all the new countries and cities on my fridge door! It’s now -18.5 °C outside while I’m writing this back in Kajaani. However, it’s less than five months before I embark on my next journey to Singapore and the South-East Asia. In the meanwhile, it’s all work and studying.