Is 2011 a year to forget? Certainly not! But in Japan, every year is “a year to forget” for Japanese have this custom of holding a bounenkai (“Forget-the-year-party”) at the end of every year. Are there so many unbearable memories of the year such that one has to drink to drown his sorrows every year, before welcoming the following one? I suppose not. I guess what bounenkai actually means is forgetting the old rivalries, upsets, jealousies, hatreds, bury the hatchet and start anew. The new friendships forged, the precious memories gained, and the invaluable experiences gained must of course be remembered, and treasured in the following years to come.

Before the clock ticks to twelve, the bells start to chime, and ecstatic screams of joy echo around, let us take a step back, look back at the year 2011, and pick up the pretty, the ugly, and the could-have-been-better.

January: Spent the beginning of 2011 in Korea, with some friends from Seoul National University. Stepped onto Korean soil for the first time in my life. Fascinated by the world of Hangul, or some say kimchi.

February: With the resolution to cover all 47 prefectures before I graduate, I made a trip to Hokuriku and covered the 4 prefectures there within a month.

March: The Great Earthquake struck Japan. Chaos and confusion went rampant throughout the country. Project YUME was started by me and Peter Draw.

April: The start of the school semester was delayed by 1 month due to the aftermaths of the earthquake. With the help of some friends, Project YUME went on smoothly.

May: Stepped into the remnants of the affected areas of the disaster for volunteer work. Saw with my own eyes the reality of natural disasters. Project YUME extended to Taiwan, with the Taichung media reporting on us.

June: Performed WIF at Okuma Auditorium, perhaps for the last time.

July: Went to the affected areas in Tohoku region with Project YUME, bringing the well-wishing messages and drawings to the children over there, and bringing back with us their hopes and dreams for the future.

August: Went to Tottori and Shimane, 2 prefectures I had never been to. And also to Miyajima and Amanohashidate, completing the “Three Best Sceneries of Japan” (the last one being Matsushima, which I went 3 years ago)

September: Went to the last prefecture of Japan- Okinawa, completing all 47 prefectures.

October: Finished writing the book about my experiences in the 47 prefectures of Japan, but unfortunately unable to publish it, just yet.

November: Became a Singapore representative of Sekai-Banzuke (a Japanese variety show). And got the sweetest girlfriend who would wait outside the restaurant I work at on my Christmas eve shift with a Santa-claus hat. 

December: Had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and speak to Her Imperial Highness Princess of Japan about Project YUME. Was honoured to be invited as a guest speaker to talk about Project YUME at one of the classes in Waseda.

All in all, 2011 has been a wonderful and memorable year. Project YUME was probably the most meaningful thing I have ever done in my life. Feeling helpless in the days following the earthquake, and dying to do my part for the  country that gave me my dreams, I looked for Peter Draw, an inspiring artist and friend of mine. We got together and did whatever we could. It sounded insignificant at first, but slowly it began to touch people’s hearts, and it led to greater things.

If there is one thing I have learnt through Project YUME, it must be that, “earthquakes, disasters, wars, and other disasters may be inevitable in life, but when these disaster struck, it is important for us to lend our hands to the people right near us. Even in our daily lives, if all of us could do our parts and care for the person next to us, the world would really become a better place”. I am convinced that the world is indeed one world. Everyone is connected in one or another way. Our actions, no matter how insignificant, leads to somebody else’s; what we do can change someone else’s day. Life is a chain-effect of kindness and repaying of kindness.

I had just decided to write a book about my adventures in the 47 prefectures Japan a year ago, and to be able to complete that aim (that is, travelling to the remaining prefectures, AND finish writing it) within less than a year was a huge personal achievement. I was glad to have been able to do so. Despite the failures I faced in getting it published, I now see the flaws in my writing styles, content and other aspects. It is now my job to amend them mistakes, amend the flaws and get it done right this time.

Being able to get onto a Japanese variety show was a dream in itself too. I had been onto previous Japanese TV shows, but this time was more interesting in a way because I had the chance to meet artistes that I admire. Inviting friends over to my house and watching the show together was a great experience altogether too.

As the year draws to an end, let us close our eyes for a moment and think about our resolutions for the next year.

Till then!