Japan 2008

By Bryan • china, personal, tokyo to paris overland, travel • 10 Jul 2008

“To lead a life surrounded solely by one’s favorite things, to make it more
comfortable it such is your wishes, this is an article that best suites
the purpose”.

Water kettle scripture – Kyoko Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

I was going to lead into this entry with a post regarding the things I’ll remember most about China and the things I remember least. A good, solid final China post to counteract my complaints from the previous week. Alas, busy weekend events didn’t allow it, although I’m hoping that I won’t submit to laziness and write in the upcoming weeks.

Japan 2008 currently is the ranking leader in terms of lack of preparedness. I’m not talking about drama laced travel-prick nonsense rooted in culture shock and “Oh my god, it is soooo different!!!” And “no one speaks English so I had to grunts and snorts in conjunction with hand signals to communicate with the bus driver”.

I’m talking about the fact that I did little, if any, logistical research prior to landing at Kansai Airport, Osaka. Normally pre-journey preparations consist of several weeks on Google, the thorn tree and other miscellaneous travel related websites. While I have kidnapped my friends Lonely Planet Tokyo guide, I don’t have and LP for Japan – which is a first for me and LP. However, moving and leaving-China related activities used far greater of my time than I had initially allocated (although that is not a bad
thing) and what time was dedicated to travel-logistics was spent on Russia associated issues for obvious reasons. I didn’t even have a set of charged batteries ready for my camera.

I considered Japan to be an easy assignment and requiring little preparation. So far, this has been the case. The only problem associated with poor planning was the realization a day before my Shanghai departure that the Japan Rail Pass must be purchased outside of Japan, rather than on arrival (which is what I had assumed) – solving this required a quick detour into a district of Shanghai the day of departure and a close arrival at Pudong airport – but it was not that big of a deal. The rail pass voucher would not be accepted upon arrival because the clerk at the Shanghai office had written a number of wrong things on the voucher. I arrived
in Osaka rather late so dealing with this problem wasn’t possible, but it was solved through a few phone calls the next morning.

As suspected, traveling in Japan is currently childs-play. There are no problems getting around, communicating or purchasing items. What I’m finding is that because traveling Japan is so easy there are too many options available for a traveler. This is where my lack of preparations is kicking me in the ass. Because I don’t have a guide book to give me a rough view of the best of each location and because I didn’t really bother to research each city I’ll be in (with the exception of Mt. Fuji and the Alpine Route) I don’t really know what I’m going to do each time I step off the train. Japan is also a very expensive place which means (in contrast to my developing world travel habits) one needs to plan ones days somewhat well (where one is going to stay, what one is going to do, how one is going to get there) or one is going to waste a significant pile of money.

I arrived in Kyoto just after lunch today – after spending the morning working out the issues with my Japan Rail Pass. I also managed to pick up a nasty infection in my right eye which really put the brakes on my ambitions today. Hopefully that will clear up by tomorrow which will allow me to carry out my rough Kyoto plan (which includes several temples, some forests, a fish market and hopefully the Imperial Palace). Off to
Tokyo on Friday.

Some things of note:

  1. Stepping out of an airport and into the air and smell of a new country is now listed as one of my favorite sensations
  2. I will never get bored of staring out the windows of both airplanes and trains (provide my eyes are not infected).
  3. Japanese cities employ a very interesting and well designed network of alleyways.
  4. Railways are the the future – it’s too bad that Canada hasn’t figured that one out yet.

*This post was written two days ago on my notebook without an internet connection. I’m currently in Tokyo where I’m planning about two days of city exploration followed by a trek up Mt. Fuji and a visit to the Onsen (hot springs) of Hakone.

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4 Responses

  1. Sue Crosby

    Sounds like an interesting place! I think that railways are most efficient in places where the major populated areas are close together. Most of Canada is too spread out, butI think there is a much greater use of commuter trains in Ont. where cities are closer together.
    Hope your eye is all better.

  2. angela

    said u should pay more attention to ur eyes.
    told u so~~
    :-p

  3. Miss. Fernandez

    Im glad your trip is going well……might have found you a helpful hand in Russia, check your email!

  4. I just got my ass-kicked by Mt. Fuji-san…more about that later!

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