Planning

When my dad asked me what I was planning to do during the summer holidays I simply shrugged, knowing that ‘be on the internet’ wasn’t an answer he wanted to hear. I wasn’t expecting him to suggest I go to Japan. I didn’t believe him. I hadn’t stopped to think that it would be possible for me to actually go to Japan so soon in my life; it was a dream I had been looking forward to for years. I had always looked at it from a hypothetical point of view, thinking that one day I would go, planning imaginary trips and thinking about myself there in some future. And suddenly that one day was today.
It took me a week to process what that really meant, but after that there was no getting the idea out of my head. I was going to Japan. I had been saving money since I was twelve, so I had enough for a trip. I was going to Japan. The idea was presented to me at the end of April and I knew I couldn’t leave school, I’d have to go in July or August.
I’d only ever travelled alone once before, when I was a kid. The airport staff gave me a sticker and assigned me a guide that would walk me through the airport and to the plane, making sure I got to my destination safely. I wasn’t a kid anymore and I’d be receiving no sticker. I was going to have to deal with everything by myself from the moment my parents waved me goodbye until I got back. As a 19 year old I knew how to cook and wash my clothes and walk around a city on my own, so I didn’t really have any worries about solo travel, but everyone else in my family figured it was a big step towards “independent life”.
My planning began. The first step consisted in figuring out how long I would be there, what cities and towns I wanted to visit, where I was going to stay. I quickly settled for a two week stay in only Tokyo, I didn’t have money for more time, I didn’t want to deal with long-distance travelling inside Japan on my first trip and there was plenty for me to do in the capital alone.
My interest for Japan awakened when I was eleven years old, and when my grandma gave me a map of Japan for my birthday I quickly put it up on my bedroom wall. Ever since then I’ve been pinning down all the places I want to travel to. When I ran out of pins I started writing them down but kept losing the pieces of paper. Since then I’ve transferred the data to Google Maps. I didn’t need ideas or help figuring out what places I wanted to visit, I was going to see everything.
Organising my trip to Japan was all about choosing which places I thought I needed to visit, the ones I could never forgive myself for if I skipped them. Eventually, this was my final itinerary:

I didn’t manage to go to all the places on my itinerary.

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10 thoughts on “Planning

      1. I can easily imagine. It’s a wonderful place to visit, both for the country itself and the people. 😀 I hope to go back next year, so I’ll be taking notes from your blog as I go. 😀

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  1. I remember, as if it were yesterday – yeah, sounds like an overused starter for a pretentious novel but it’s quite true 😉 – my very first trip to Japan back in 2009. 12 days along the well-trodden Tōkyō-Kyōto route and various points in between or beyond. It was the culmination of years of planning, nurtured by an obsessive interest in anime and manga (one that I still possess but to a far more moderate degree), and at the time I thought that this would be enough to slake my thirst for all things Nippon for a good few decades, with no return trip planned until much later in life.

    Fast forward to the present. Things have developed in ways I could not have imagined before that first visit. My interest in Japan has broadened to encompass more areas of history and culture, with a particular emphasis on castles and trains (anime and manga now fight for a smaller share of my time). As of this writing, I’ve been to the country nine times, my average rate has risen to two trips there per year … and one of my new favourite hobbies is crafting bespoke Japan travel itineraries (both for myself and friends/family who request the service).

    It’s only the beginning, mate. A whole new world has just opened up for you, and all that’s left to ask is when your next visit to Japan will be. (^_^)

    Cheerio.

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    1. Wow, it seems like I’m going in the same direction as you! Since returning I’ve been obsessed with planning future itineraries around the country haha. Actually I hope to be able to go again this tsuyu but I’m a student and don’t really have the money, so we’ll have to wait and see 😉
      Instead of doing the more known route of Kyoto-Osaka-Nara I wanted to go to some less touristy places. I’ll be staying five days in Hiroshima as base, with trips to Miyajima and Iwakuni (there is actually so much to do in Hiroshima that people don’t know of!) and then slowly heading up to Himeji and back down again passing through the towns and cities of Kure, Takahara, Mihara, Fukuyama, Kasaoka, Onomichi, a bit of the Shimanami Kaido, Kurashiki, Okayama, Kibi Plain, Bizen and Ako.
      I think it gives me a good insight of history and culture of the country (the bombing in Hiroshima and in general the war, Momotaro, 47 ronin, plenty of temples and shrines, pottery…). I made sure I’ll be visiting many castles on my next trip since I wasn’t able to see any in Tokyo, so it turns out I’ll be going to 6 + 2 ruins.
      It’s a trip pretty different to what I did last time, so I think I’ll enjoy it and be able to see the countryside of Japan along the inland sea.
      And I didn’t know I liked trains so much, but Japan somehow managed to awaken some sort of hidden interest 😛 Actually it’s not just trains, I’ve become more interested in planes, ships and submarines, steel structures, bridges…

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      1. “And I didn’t know I liked trains so much…”

        Swing by one of Japan’s excellent railway museums and feed that interest. But be warned – that tiny spark might just flare up into a full-blown obsession. (^_^)

        I remember driving an N700 shinkansen simulator at the big JR-run museum down in Nagoya (https://withinstrikingdistance.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/field-report-nagoya-14-february-2014/). I’ve long known that controlling one of these beasts was tough work, but even I couldn’t escape being influenced by the common (and quite false) perception of bullet trains as being push-button affairs that practically drive themselves. After that simulation – which, incidentally, I attempted at the easiest possible settings (more realistic advanced levels are available) – I gained a new respect for the train driving profession as an area of expertise that requires both an artist’s deft touch and a scientist’s uncompromising precision.

        “Instead of doing the more known route of Kyoto-Osaka-Nara I wanted to go to some less touristy places…”

        Nice list! I’ve got great memories of the Chūgoku region – achingly beautiful part of the country, and one that I look forward to returning to (though for my next trip I’ve got the Tōhoku area on priority). I see you’ve pencilled in both the Shimanami Kaidō and the Kibi plain … those are probably my biggest frustrations for that region as they’re best explored by bike (and I can’t ride a bike to save my life).

        Also, I certainly think you’re on the right track for gravitating away from the well-trodden routes and exploring less touristy parts of the country. That’s not to say one should miss out on Kyōto and all the rest (I’d still strongly recommend visiting them at some point), but some of my very best memories of Japan were formed out in the countryside, away from the safety of tourist information centres and English-language pamphlets. I’ve been to places where foreign visitors are a relative rarity and got into friendly conversations – my atrocious Japanese skills aside – with all sorts of folk: an elderly couple I shared a taxi with, the driver of a bus where I was the only passenger, a cabbie who tried out a few words of Tagalog on me (which were quite funny in that context but I was too polite to say so), an old volunteer guide who asked for advice on how to improve his English … I could go on but I’ll spare you the boring novella, haha.

        In any case, have fun planning your future visits, and I look forward to hearing about them on your blog. I’ve often found that fellow travellers’ experiences can be a veritable gold mine of ideas for planning one’s one trips, and I’m already making notes for my next stop in Tōkyō based on the stuff you’ve written so far.

        Cheers.

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    2. I have at least four railway museums pinpointed on Google Maps! They definitely look interesting, I hope to go someday sooner rather than later, although on this next trip I won’t be going to any.
      Wow! The Nagoya Railway Museum is one I’ve heard recommended quite a lot, must’ve been an amazing experience to try out that simulator 🙂
      Japan seems so efficient that sometimes we forget all the hard work behind to make everything so in the first place.

      There are many places that seem beautiful further inland in Chûgoku, but I’d need a car to get to them (Ohaganishi no Tanada, Shinjo, Mitsuki Hachiman-gū Shrine, Kinojo, Makido Caves…). I understand your frustration haha. Though there are buses along the Shimanami Kaido, and the Kibi Plain can be walked if you have a full day, maybe one day you’ll be able to check them out 😀

      I will definitely go to Kyôto someday, just I think Japan has a lot to offer and there are places that are higher on my to-see list at the moment.

      I’ve seen you’ve gone to many places in Kyûshû, including Gunkanjima (for some reason I always say Gunkakujima instead ¬¬). That’s a place I would really like to go to but Nagasaki will have to wait for a while. I don’t want to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki two years in a row, I’d end up a bit upset. Beppu on the other hand will hopefully be seeing me sometime in the next few years haha.

      I too like reading other’s trip reports, it helps form an idea of what to expect. There are some places that I haven’t managed to find much information (like Mihara or Kasaoka), so let’s see how that goes!

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