Dennis Sun


It's either autumn or spring.


YOMU  読む  (to read in Japanese) 

by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  November - December 2023 Issue

It's a tie! I think it's a tie.

I still can't decide which season is my favorite. Japan has four distinct seasons, yet only two are considered to be the most beautiful. Summer is excessively hot and muggy. Winter is terrible and very chilly. So, it is either autumn or spring, then. Initially, I believed that spring would easily surpass autumn and become the top option. Imagine the many blooms blossoming on every tree around Japan throughout the spring! But I can't help but fall in love with ‌fall when it arrives.  © Dennis Sun  2023

The fall season is really lovely! Autumn is incredibly charming because of the brilliant hues of the changing leaves, the crispness of the air, and the comforting sensation of layering clothing. With its warm tones, it appears as though nature is creating a masterpiece on its own. Though every season has a certain beauty of its own, I can't help but be enthralled by autumn's enchantment. 

The oppressive summer heat is relieved by the cool touch of autumn. The earthy aroma of falling leaves combined with the cold wind transports one to a state of peace that chases away the fatigue of earlier months. As nature gets ready for its winter hibernation, this is the time for contemplation and meditation.

Japan's entire countryside changes color from green to yellow to orange to crimson! The countryside is painted in an amazing tapestry of hues by the vivid leaf of maple trees, referred to as koyo in Japanese. Visitors from all over the world are drawn to this natural wonder because they are anxious to see the beauty and tranquility that autumn offers Japan.

Even in my neighborhood in Tokyo, the splendor of fall surrounds us. Brightly colored trees cover the streets, making for a charming landscape that draws in both locals and tourists. The aroma of falling leaves permeates the cold air, beckoning people to stroll slowly and enjoy the peace of this season. 

There are hardly enough words to express how beautiful this season is. Take a look at some of the pictures I shot of my neighborhood to show how gorgeous fall is. Let's fall deeply in love with fall! While autumn is still here, let's enjoy it. The cold breeze will soon come to freeze. And when winter arrives, we won't want to leave the house anymore. So, go out. Get out. Take a long walk and take some good pics! It will be good for your physical and mental health! Taking a break from your usual routine and immersing yourself in nature can provide a refreshing change of scenery. The combination of fresh air, exercise, and the beauty of your surroundings can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.  Friends, it's a nice season to go for a stroll. Spring and fall are tied for first. Both seasons offer pleasant weather and beautiful scenery. In spring, you can enjoy the blooming flowers and vibrant colors, while in fall, you can admire the stunning foliage and crisp air. It's a tie! Itte rasshai!!!


YOMU  読む  (to read in Japanese) 

by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  September - October 2023 Issue

I have been warned. "Thou shall not study Chinese and Japanese together at the same time. You'll end up mixing the two. You'll only end up confusing yourself." So, my fellow language learners cautioned me. Never these two languages. Never together.


Actually, I've been learning Chinese for a year now. Current students and graduates at my former university are eligible for full scholarships. During my last year of university, I had the opportunity to take one semester of Chinese 101. It was particularly frustrating since the instructor was frequently absent, which meant that we, the students, did not learn anything.


Working for the Japanese government, I have the privilege of engaging with a diverse range of foreigners residing in Japan. As part of our mission to support them in securing long-term employment, we offer complimentary Japanese language training. Among the foreigners living in Japan, the Chinese community is the largest. This is the reason why I decided to study Chinese again. I wanted to communicate with the Chinese-speaking students in class. Even though I had been working at this place for many years, it was not until last year that I discovered the scholarship program offered by my former university. Without wasting any time, I seized the opportunity and took advantage of it.

Others think it will be easier for me to learn Chinese because I already know Japanese. Actually, that’s not true at all. Chinese and Japanese may share the same writing system in Kanji. However, Hiragana, Katakana, and the English alphabet are also used in Japanese. Yes, there are actually 4 writing systems in Japan. Didn’t we suffer a lot just learning the 26 alphabets during elementary school? To complete primary school, Japanese elementary pupils learned 46 hiragana, 46 katakana, and over 2,000 Kanji characters in addition to the English alphabet. It's no wonder that the Japanese are so clever and smart!


Chinese and Japanese sentence constructions differ significantly. While Japanese is an SOV (subject, object, verb) language, Chinese is an SVO (subject-verb-object). Japanese grammar is a little more complicated than Chinese grammar. In Japanese, for example, verbs and adjectives are frequently combined. Japanese has conjugations, but Chinese does not.


We began the new school year last week with HSK 2 ("HSK" stands for Hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǎoshì, which translates to "Chinese Level Test"). Although I achieved high grades in HSK 1, I confess that I still lack a great deal of confidence in my Chinese abilities, be it speaking, writing, or reading. To add fuel to the flames, we've got a new instructor who appears to have arrived directly from hell. In college, we refer to such instructors as terror teachers since they like scaring their pupils and humiliating them in front of the class. I was seriously considering dropping out of the class.


Our new teacher is much more demanding than my previous HSK 1 teacher. Every day, I must study in order to stay focused on class. It's back to school for me. For me to survive, I must adjust to his teaching techniques. There will be professors you remember and admire, and some you will wish to forget. Today, I even had to go to the public library to get more reading materials. I miss my former instructor! They say, however, that it is from difficult teachers that you will learn the most.


Today at work, we celebrated the graduation of my Level 3 Business Japanese class. It was their last day of classes, and they won’t be coming back to class anymore. It was a mixture of joy and sadness. They first felt that studying for three months was such a long time. Now that they've reached the end of their journey, they don’t want it to end anymore. Everyone has grown closer to one another and made new friends. Nobody wanted to go home early, like before. Nobody was leaving the room. Some of them may meet again and stay in touch for a while. For some, it would be a real goodbye, and they would let this page in their lives fade into history.


So, once one term is through, we prepare for the next. We are planning two evening programs for beginners and advanced students. Foreigners in Japan are today extremely fortunate. These free courses did not exist during my time. To learn Japanese seriously, we had to pay a lot of money. The Japanese government now provides free Japanese classes to foreigners residing in Japan in order to assist them in finding better and more permanent work.


I can only hope that more Filipinos in Japan benefit from this free program. Many Filipinos here were not properly educated in Japanese. I know many Filipino friends who have been married to Japanese and have Japanese children. Despite having lived here for over two decades, they are still unable to speak Japanese fluently. And, to make matters worse, they still couldn't read and write. But, all of these will change very soon.

And very soon, I intend to resume my Spanish studies. I learned it in high school and college, but I basically lost it since I never practiced it. Now that I work at a school with many Spanish-speaking pupils, I need to brush up on my Spanish. 

My, my... So many languages to learn and so little time! I guess I need additional brains in my head.

© Dennis Sun  2023

JICE Shinjuku Level 3 Evening Class Graduation October 14, 2023


YOMU  読む  (to read in Japanese) 

by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  July - August 2023 Issue

My, My, My CORONA!

Wow! It has certainly been an eventful week!

Last week, my thermometer was reading a temperature of 40°C. In addition to a headache, I had body aches, a sore throat, a dry cough, and difficulties in breathing. Initially, I assumed I was dealing with a summertime cold. I tried to book an appointment at a local nearby clinic but was unable to do so because of my elevated fever. So, I called the other clinics in the neighborhood but they all declined for the same reason. For a while, I thought covid-19 was over. And that coronavirus is treated like ordinary influenza that we all have to live with. 

I contacted the public health center at my local ward and informed them of my situation. In response, they provided me with a list of medical clinics that would test for coronavirus. Out of the five listed, only one was able to accept me. I had to use public transport and walk a significant distance to get there, albeit in my ill condition.

The last time I was so ill with a cold, I was barred from entering the clinic. Despite the freezing winter weather, they made me wait in the garage for my coronavirus test results, which ended up coming back positive. All I was prescribed were medications for my fever and cough.

This time, they allowed me entry to the clinic, but in a separate area. There was another woman in the room who was constantly coughing, so I assumed she had coronavirus too. The physician inserted two nasal swabs, one to test for the flu and the other for covid. Both swabs were incredibly unpleasant as the doctor forced the swab deep into my throat through my nostrils. After 10 minutes, the doctor presented me with the test kit which, unfortunately, was a positive result for covid.

Illustration by Dennis Sun

On May 8, 2023, the Japanese government reclassified COVID-19 from a category 2 to a category 5 under the nation's law, equating it to seasonal influenza. Consequently, the government will no longer be footing the bill for tests and treatments associated with the illness. Restrictions imposed on the activities of those infected and their close contacts were also lifted, with the decision to don face coverings being left up to individuals. Despite this, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare still recommends that those who have come down with the virus remain at home for 5 days from the onset of symptoms and wear face masks for 10 days.

It appears that Japan has stepped into a fresh round of COVID-19 infections as people are more frequently engaging in social activities. The heightening of cases is to be expected to a certain extent, considering the status of the virus has been reduced. Subsequently, the government has ceased giving out the daily count of those affected.

At the various locations I'm employed, there are numerous staff, instructors and students who have been absent who I believe may have contracted the virus. I understand people want to ditch the masks yet I feel it is still a little too soon. Lots of people are getting unwell again so it's wise to stay vigilant and wear your face masks.

Dennis Sun


YOMU  読む  (to read in Japanese) 

by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  May - June 2023 Issue

"Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport."

Life travels swiftly. Wasn't it just a few years ago that we were locked up indoors, working from home, avoiding public transit, and donning masks everywhere we went? It felt like a scene from a post-apocalyptic film, and “WE” were in it. As much as we wanted to be in movies, this was just not the right one. For a time, we thought the virus would wipe out the entire globe. But it was our trust in humanity that kept us alive.

After a lengthy time of stagnation and gloom, I was eager to travel again when some countries began to open their doors in December. The incidence of covid infections in the Philippines was quite high at the time, and I was concerned. I reasoned that visiting Bangkok, my adopted home city, would be far safer.  As a result, I spent my winter vacation there. Air travel has once again become exciting!
Travelers all across the world are emerging from the ashes of the epidemic. I checked Facebook to see how my friends are doing. Travel has truly recovered! After two years of postponing plans and deferring dreams, my friends are back to traveling as if there would be another lockdown...or another outbreak.
So, what exactly is the post-covid phenomenon? It's known as revenge travel, or the sweet and pleasant travel with a vengeance. We're all prepared to pay the price now, even if it's double the pre-covid price.
When I traveled to Bangkok, my hotel stay and plane ticket cost twice as much as I was accustomed to paying. To make matters worse, the Japanese yen has gone very weak against most currencies. Outside of Japan, everything became prohibitively costly. This is the primary reason why some of my Japanese friends choose to stay and travel in Japan. Most of them used to leave Japan since it was cheaper outside of Japan back then.
With the weakening of the Japanese yen, Japan has become an affordable favorite tourism destination for Southeast Asians, especially Filipinos. I see so many groups of Asian tourists whenever I go out in Tokyo. I occasionally wonder if I'm still in Tokyo because I can hear Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Tagalog here and there.
I think revenge travel is a way for people to make up for lost time and realize how short life is. People want to spend more time with their friends and family, go outdoors to enjoy nature, and try new things. People are investing their money into experiences instead of things. After everything we have been through, there's not much fear of the unknown remaining. People will go out there to enjoy their lives, and have some revenge travels to do. So, to quote the Japanese, "Itterasshai!" and safe travels to all.

EDITORIAL by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  March - April 2023 Issue

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

I've spent more than half of my life in Japan. In fact, I've been in Japan longer than I've been in the Philippines.

I must admit that the most difficult challenge we face as foreign residents in Japan has been learning the Japanese language. As for the rest, we could just ignore, let them pass by and just accept them.

The majority of the Filipinos I know can get by with everyday conversational Japanese. They are married to a Japanese and have Japanese children, thus they must communicate with them in Japanese even if they did not attend proper Japanese language school. And when it comes to business Japanese, though, they all fail to communicate.
I've been collaborating with the Japanese government for several years now on our objective to provide business Japanese courses, fundamental Japanese language instruction, and job preparation skills to foreign nationals living in Japan in order to assist them obtain secure and stable employment.
Even though I work for a Japanese corporation, I feel compelled to continue learning the language. The Japanese I use at work is confined to the scope of my job. The Japanese I previously learnt but never used is mainly gone or progressively going away.
So if I wanted to remember what I learned, and continue to improve my Japanese, I decided to enroll in weekly lessons with an instructor to learn Japanese. It’s actually a class run by volunteer Japanese teachers. It doesn’t cost much as it’s actually almost free.
My teacher is a retired Japanese in his late seventies or early eighties. He teaches like a father and is very strict with his students. He doesn’t like people coming in late especially those who didn’t notify him. Being late is not something the Japanese usually do, and if one arrives late, one must provide notice and apology.
Well, a month ago, my instructor urged me to participate in the city’s annual Japanese speech convention. He wanted me to introduce my country, Philippines, as the theme of my speech. He stated that many Japanese people are unfamiliar with my nation, therefore this is the perfect opportunity to promote it.
Though it is in Japanese, I am sharing my speech with everyone here. If you wish to read it in your native language, you may use Google Translate. Please go to this link.DENNIS'S SPEECH
And I am also sharing with you the beautiful spring blossom pictures I took around my neighborhood during this year’s spring.

EDITORIAL by Dennis Sun

Jeepney Press  January - February 2023  Issue

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” 

~ Margaret Shepard

Wow! Has it been that long already? 

20 years. 2 decades.

The year was 2003. It was the year when the towering Roppongi Hills opened in Tokyo; the year when the PCCC (Philippine Coordinating Council), an umbrella organization of Filipino groups in the Kansai area was formed; the year when the monorail in Okinawa was launched; and in the world, it was the year when Saddam Hussein was captured, thus ending the Iraq-Kuwait war in the Middle East. And, it was the cold winter of this year that Jeepney Press was born.
Starting as a 12-page print publication with a circulation of 5,000 copies distributed mostly in Tokyo and the major cities of Japan where there is a big population of Filipinos, Jeepney Press demonstrated itself to be unique among the other Filipino publications during that time. There were no news about politics, and no gossips about your favorite showbiz personalities. We put more weight on content and substance rather than commercial advertising. 
Published once every two months, Jeepney Press is a non-profit and non-commercial publication run by a staff of volunteers (doctors, professors, engineers, directors, social workers, artists, musicians, journalists, etc) working towards making a unified diverse and responsible Filipino society in Japan by promoting community involvement to issues concerning Filipinos in Japan. Jeepney Press encourages constructive, positive, educational and inspirational dialogues among Filipinos. It ventures to share knowledge and resources, strengthen existing relations and forge new ones with various Filipino communities all around Japan.
Now, after more than 200 issues and 20 years, after being transformed into the digital format, and while still being true to our original vision, we have stretched further our reach into the global audience, sharing to those outside of Japan on how we celebrate the journeys of Filipinos here.
Every year is always a new year and we just continue to move on. Move forward.  It has been a tough journey but every year is always a time to learn new things and grow. And so, the journey moves on. Tuloy ang pasada!

This is the first issue of Jeepney Press January - February 2003.