When Malaysia announced a Covid-19 lockdown would take effect on March 18, 2020, Cheesie decided to move to Japan in a “spur of the moment.”
“I bought the last flight out on the 17th. I told myself, ‘If I’m going to be stuck in a lockdown, I wanted to be in Japan.'”
The 39-year-old blogger’s love for Japan was evident even before her big move to Tokyo — the Malaysian had traveled to Japan at least 56 times and covered all 47 prefectures.
“I love Japan very much and very [intensely]. I used to travel to other countries but every time I was somewhere else, I would always be like, ‘Why am I not in Japan instead?'” she added.
“It got to a point where I gave up traveling the world … the more I went to Japan, the more obsessive I got.”
Cheesie’s love for Japan goes beyond its delicious food and the more tangible aspects of its rich culture. She said the country’s practices and philosophies have greatly enriched her life, and tells CNBC Make It about three of them.
In Japan, it’s not difficult to find something new to be thankful for each day, said Cheesie.
That’s because the practice is “carefully incorporated into daily life.”
One example of that is saying “itadakimasu” before you eat, which means receiving the food in front of you with humility — a way of showing appreciation for everyone involved in its preparation.
And saying “otsukaresama desu” to your colleagues after a long day of work is a way to recognize and thank them for their hard work.
“These are the small things or gestures that I find really fascinating, and it makes appreciating things a lot easier in life,” Cheesie said.
Cheesie’s love for Japan is also deeply rooted in how it has taught her to accept herself and circumstances.
“Generally, people are really nice and courteous in Japan. And it is only natural that if people are nice to you, you’ll be nice to people,” she said.
“That became the nature of my being here — giving and receiving kindness.”
That’s a huge change from who she was — a “very mean self-critic” who always thought she wasn’t good enough.
“I became a person that I liked. This country changed my life.”
Cheesie shared her experience undergoing four days of “Yamabushi training” last year at Dewa Sanzan, the three mountains in Yamagata Prefecture that are believed to be sacred.
“In ancient times, it was practiced by monks who lived ascetic life in the mountains,” she said.
“But in modern day, it is customized for urban people where they go into the mountains and pray for four days without talking.”
The only word one could utter was “uketamo,” or “unconditional acceptance” of your surroundings.
“Even if it starts raining or you have no food, you have to accept it. You can only say ‘uketamo,'” Cheesie added.
The “transformative experience” allowed her to master the art of acceptance in life, regardless of life’s ups and downs.
“It is one of the most powerful tools that I’ve picked up.”
Cheesie, who was previously based in Singapore and Malaysia, said that in comparison to Japan — those countries have become “too modernized.”
In Japan, you can still experience the traditional way of life in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
For example, she recently visited Kudaka — a remote island of Okinawa — where she saw islanders catching poisonous sea snakes with their bare hands without netting or tools.