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Photo: Unsplash/David Edelstein

Can’t Travel? Live Vicariously Lor: Japan Edition

I quit my job earlier this year so I could travel and work remotely. So when COVID-19 hit, I was slightly crushed. “Slightly”, because the optimist in me refused to believe that we wouldn’t be able to take to the skies again soon. 

But when minister Lawrence Wong announced a few days ago that non-essential travel is unlikely this year, and NUS public health school dean Professor Teo Yik Ying later declared in a Straits Times webinar that “we will not be able to travel out of Singapore for the foreseeable future”, the dispiriting reality set in for reals.


The truth is, we won’t be hearing the thump of the immigration officer’s stamp on our passports anytime this year. Or feeling the bite of winter that moment you step off the plane onto the aerobridge. Or taking in the strange yet enticing smells of food sizzling in everything from a tagine to a tawa in a foreign land.

So I guess it’s time to accept the truth and live vicariously for the time being - through those who can still travel; tourism boards and agencies who are valiantly offering us a window to their world; and attractions that have created a virtual dimension for everyone who’s grounded to explore.

Because even though your body can’t physically travel, you can still be transported, right? 

In this series, we’ll visit some of the world’s top places as seen through the eyes of other travellers, starting with Japan - which was, no surprises, Singaporeans’ top-searched destination for travel in January 2021 according to Expedia.


Home to the most number of industrial robots in the world, Japan is oddly enough also one of the world’s heaviest users of boomer tech. (Like, coronavirus cases are still being filed by fax?) 

This country of bizarre contrasts is an adventure like no other, because where else can you stop by a cuddle cafe on your way to a penis festival? Here’s how to fill that hole in your heart and build your Japan bucket list until you can travel again.


You’ve been to Tokyo, but what about neighbouring Takasaki? In this new film shot on location, Jeanette Aw takes you through the city of pansies, ichigo mochi and daruma dolls as she ambles through on a solo journey.

The 12-minute storyline - in which the Singaporean actress plays a visually impaired traveller - is kinda tedious, but it does give you a lingering look at the scenic, lesser-known town and evokes memories of Japanese hospitality and culture. 

This could be a place to work into your Japan itinerary when you’re ready to visit again (it’s a 50-minute Shinkansen ride from Tokyo). 


Tsukiji’s inner market with the famous tuna auction closed late 2018, but later reopened as the 70% bigger Toyosu Market on nearby manmade Toyosu Island. 

Previously, to watch the auction, you had to wake up at a ridiculously early hour to queue for a place on the floor. At the new market, you can apply for a spot online a month ahead, and if you can’t get one there’s an observation deck where you can watch all the action from behind a glass window (you’ll have to queue for this though). 

Can’t wait to check out Toyosu Market? Follow Going Awesome Places blogger Will Tang as he visits the auction and shares everything you need to know about choping your place when you eventually get to go. 


It can be tough to get tickets to the cult-fave Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s suburban Mitaka district. And even harder to see what it looks like inside online, because it has a strict no-photos policy. 

But if you haven’t managed to tick this off your bucket list yet, you can now visit every room and see every detail - even the toilets! - through a series of videos that the museum’s curators have put up on YouTube.

According to the captions, the whimsical videos (watch the rest of them here) are supposed to be a sort of “video diary” and they also give an idea of how the staff see the place. Note: All the videos are in Japanese though, so get that Google Translate ready.

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