It showed as the 21-year-old from Toronto fell four times in a performance he says was a "slap in the face."
"Japan Open woke me up in a way and smacked me into what I need to do to do well during the season," Chan said a on a conference call Wednesday, a week before he travels to Windsor for the Skate Canada International competition.
The two-time world champion spent the long flight home from Japan thinking about where competition went awry, and came the conclusion that his shaky competition may go down as the best thing that happened to him this season.
"It's early in the season but my turning point of my season was Japan Open," Chan said. "I kind of woke up and came back and really wanted to work hard, was really motivated to do my programs and run my sections and get the jumps more consistent and just give myself more confidence."
Good timing for his turnaround as Chan will open his ISU Grand Prix season in Windsor next week.
Chan believes the lack of motivation is a normal process coming on the heels of winning back-to-back world titles.
"I guess you become numb to the feeling of accomplishing something. It's hard to explain," he said.
He said he was intimidated by the presence in Japan of Russian star Evgeni Plushenko and 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi, who both looked strong during practice.
"I was a bit surprised by how ready they were at the competition, I think i got a bit intimidated, I didn't give myself the benefit of the doubt," Chan said. "I went into my turtle shell, kind of hid from everyone, and didn't really commit to the programs, so I think that's why I skated the way I skated, which wasn't great."
The Japan Open was an invitational event featuring three teams of two men and two women from Japan, North America and Europe. Takahashi topped the men's event, while Chan, who also struggled on two other jumps, finished last.
The Canadian admitted he wasn't feeling his new programs. Chan, who split with both coach Christy Krall and longtime choreographer Lori Nichol after the world championships last spring in Nice, France, has two new programs that he described as very different.
The short program, to music by Rachmaninoff, was choreographed by former world champion Jeff Buttle, while David Wilson choreographed his long program, to Italian opera "La Boheme."
"I loved my programs, I love the choreography that Jeff and David did for the short and long programs, but somehow I couldn't assimilate myself into the programs. I couldn't feel it," he said. "I didn't feel accomplished after I finished doing a run-through in practice. I don't know why. But it clicked after Japan Open."
Chan believes the fact he can pause and regroup — rather than panic — after such a shaky start to the season shows he's grown up as an athlete.
"Hopefully people see that. I find myself, I don't lose my temper as much on the ice, on practice, I really take time to think about what I need for myself to do well," Chan said. "That's definitely something you have to experience, you have to go through the ups and downs, you can't just pick it up. . . someone can't teach you that.
"It's a sign of maturity and being a veteran of figure skating, which is really cool," he added with a laugh. "I never thought I'd be mature enough to be where I am."
Chan will skate his short program next Friday at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, followed by the long program on Saturday.
Florent Amodio of France, who was fifth at last year's world championships and Japan's Nobunari Oda, six at the worlds, should be Chan's stiffest competition.